TEL AVIV (Apr. 14)
Premier Menachem Begin departed for the U.S. this morning for two days of talks with President Carter, saying he was convinced that an agreement could be reached on autonomy if all parties adhere to the letter of the Camp David agreements. But in remarks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport, Begin was unyielding on a suspension of settlements on the West Bank for the duration of the autonomy talks, a gesture sought by the U.S. and Egypt.
“We cannot freeze the settlement plans as was done during the Camp David talks. Settlement is our unchallenged right and important for our security,” Begin declared. He said that to the best of his knowledge no proposal exists to implement autonomy on the Gaza Strip before it is applied to the West Bank.
According to Begin, that subject could be discussed only after the negotiations on the nature and scope of autonomy are completed. He said nothing would be amiss if the negotiations continued beyond the May 26 target date.
‘WHITE HOUSE IS WAITING FOR US’
Begin stressed that he has been notified by Carter that no conclusions or decisions were reached during his talks with President Anwar Sadat in Washington last week. “The White House is waiting for us,” he said. The Premier stated that he would propose to Carter that the talks continue to be held alternately in Tel Aviv and Cairo although the negotiators could meet in Washington from time to time. This is the view of the Israeli Cabinet. The U.S. was expected to suggest that all parties convene in Washington for marathon sessions until an agreement on autonomy is achieved.
Speaking on other matters, Begin insisted that Israel is pulling its forces out of south Lebanon at its own volition, not under pressure from the U.S., although there were contacts with the Americans on that issue.
He indicated that he expected Israel to boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow this summer. “We cannot continue to do business as usual after what happened in Afghanistan,” he said. “The final decision rests with the (Israel) Olympic Committee but I shall meet with its members as soon as I return from the U.S.” The Olympic Committee has until May 23 to decide but Begin said that as far as he is concerned, Israel should not participate in the Moscow events.
(Related story P.4.)