WASHINGTON (Apr. 16)
Israeli Premier Menachem Begin made it clear at a press conference this afternoon following his final meeting with President Carter that Israel will not agree to a freeze of settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it will not permit the Arabs of East Jerusalem to vote in the autonomy elections and that he regards the May 26 date for reaching agreement with Egypt over autonomy as “not a deadline, not a target date but a goal.”
He insisted that the autonomy issue is spelled out in the Camp David accords and instructed one reporter, who asked him to define “full autonomy” as distinguished from statehood, to read “the Camp David booklet issued by the State Department…very carefully and you will see what autonomy is. It is in very short sentences.”
Asked why he though the non stop autonomy talks over the next 40 days have a better chance of achieving an agreement than the negotiations that have been taking place during the last 10 months, Begin replied. “We may reach an agreement or not reach an agreement. Why be pessimistic in advance?” He said in reply to another question that the possibility of a three way summit meeting between himself, President Carter and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was “not discussed” in his just concluded talks with Carter.
Addressing reporters at Blair House shortly after he and Carter told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that very good progress had been made toward an agreement on autonomy, Begin was unyielding on the issue of a settlement freeze. He said it had not been discussed in his meetings with Carter. Asked if he had agreed to be “moderate” on that issue, he replied, “I don’t have to be moderate” on settlements.” President Sadat expressed his opinion and Carter expressed his opinion. I have my opinion.”
A BULWARK AGAINST TERRORIST ACTS
He insisted that Jewish settlements are “perfectly legal” and part of the “inherent right” of the Jewish people and form “part of the national security at Israel. “He dwell on the latter point, noting that “during one year,” which he did not specify, Israeli security forces uncovered 97 terrorist cells on the West Bank and 40 cells in the Gaza Strip.
“During the same period there were 55 acts of terrorism in Israel” and of these “53 were exposed.” He insisted that “It is a matter of the life of our citizens. The settlements are a wall of defense against bloody terrorist acts. They are inseparable from the vital defense of Israel.”
Asked if he was satisfied that the U.S. vote for the March 1 Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements was a “mistake” and how he felt about the American Jewish community’s reaction to it. Begin said the vote “belongs to the past” and “we cannot live in the past.”
Nevertheless, he added, “We regret very deeply that vote” and Carter also expressed his “deep regret.” With respect to the American Jewish reaction, he said. “As an Israeli citizen I don’t interfere with the American elections. Jews in American don’t need my advice and I won’t give them advice. We would not like anyone to interfere in our elections.” Begin said he didn’t ask Carter for additional aid for Israel at all. He said that the situations in Iran and Afghanistan came up in their talks.