JERUSALEM (Mar. 4)
Neither Premier Menachem Begin nor President Francois Mitterrand of France broke new ground in their joint press conference here today, following their appearances in the Knesset. But their replies to questions by Israeli and French correspondents disclosed very deep differences on the issues of a solution to the Palestinian question and autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Replying to questions about Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, Mitterrand said that, like anybody else, he was entitled to visit France but that Mitterrand, as President of France, would not receive him for negotiations.
Asked about his reactions to Begin’s views and approach to the question of the Palestinians, Mitterrand said he had known of Begin’s approach before, but was interested to hear at close quarters the passion and enthusiasm with which Begin expounded his feeling.
“There are basic differences between us, and as there has been a public discussion I have answered in as frank a manner as possible, within the bounds of diplomacy,” Mitterrand said.
Begin intervened to say that he had “not criticized French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson (about his remarks during a recent visit to Arab countries) but merely quoted him. Begin said the question of a Palestinian state was not for anybody else to discuss as it was a matter of life and death for Israel.
Mitterrand noted that a dialogue with the Prime Minister was “always useful,” indicating that he had not been fully convinced by Begin on either his approach to the Palestinian question or to autonomy. Begin remarked: “I tried whole-heartedly to convince him.”
Other points covered by Mitterrand included a statement that France would not supply uranium to any country which might use it for military purposes. But details of any sales would be discussed on a technical level.
Mitterrand said he had not rejected the European Economic Community’s 1980 Venice Declaration in its entirety but felt that more thought should have been paid originally to some of the points it covered. The declaration included a call for the PLO to be associated with the Mideast peace process.
Mitterrand said that a three-day visit was not enough to solve all problems, and that further discussions would be held. But he did not reply directly to a question whether he was inviting Begin to visit Paris.