JERUSALEM (Apr. 27)
Premier Menachem Begin is seeking a national consensus that Israel will never agree to the removal of Jewish settlements anywhere, even in the context of possible future peace treaties with Arab countries. He made it clear today in an Independence Day eve interview on Voice of Israel Radio that his position on settlements has hardened after the withdrawal from Sinai and the dismantlement of Yamit and other Jewish settlements there.
At the same time, in an interview published yesterday in the Egyptian weekly, Mayo, Begin passionately reiterated what he called Israel’s “patemal right” to the West Bank. Publication of the interview coincided with a speech to the Egyptian Parliament by President Hosni Mubarak in which he hailed the restoration of Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai as a “magnificent achievement” and praised Israel for returning the territory. “The people of Israel have shown an enthusiasm for peace,” he said.
Begin will meet shortly with Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres and is expected to ask for the opposition’s support of a parliamentary measure that would establish in law Israel’s refusal to remove any settlements in the territories it occupies. Such a measure, proposed by Education Minister ZevuIun Hammer of the National Religious Party, is expected to win approval at next Sunday’s Cabinet meeting and be sent to the Knesset.
AFTER THE TRANSITION PERIOD
The text of Begin’s Mayo interview was released by the Prime Minister’s Office here. Referring to the five-year transition period stipulated by the Camp David accords during which autonomy would be in effect on the West Bank and Gaza Strip while the future status of those territories is negotiated, Begin said:
“My opinion is that after the transition period we shall put out the claim to our paternal right, and then, if it is decreed that it should be Israel’s sovereignty over that part of the land, we will keep autonomy, full autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs under all circumstances.”
In his radio interview today, Begin insisted that the next round of the autonomy talks with Egypt and the U.S. must be held in Jerusalem and nowhere else. He said if Egypt refused, Israel would refuse to meet at another location. So far, the talks have alternated between Israel and Egypt, with Tel Aviv their locus in Israel.
The Egyptians have declined to meet in Jerusalem because of the implication that it recognizes Israel’s sovereignty over the city. The U.S. has offered Washington as an alternate site but the Israelis have refused.
Asked by the interviewer why Israel had decided to level Yamit and other settlements before leaving Sinai, a spectacle that shocked Israelis watching it on television, he replied that the measure was taken for urgent security reasons but refused to elaborate. He would not say who gave the orders to level Yamit.
Begin confirmed that Israel was carrying out daily reconnaissance flights over Lebanon and warned that if the Syrians interferred with them, Israel would deal with their anti-aircraft missiles in the Beka valley of central Lebanon. He said that so far those missiles were not causing Israel much trouble.
He attributed the absence of any military response by the Palestine Liberation Organization to Israel’s air raids on its bases in Lebanon last week to fear of stiff reprisals. He said warnings were relayed to the PLO via the U.S. that they faced severe consequences if they opened fire on Israeli border towns.
Begin threatened that if the PLO carried out anymore terrorist acts against Israel, Israel would respond with even more force than it used last week. If the PLO fires mortars and Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns, Israel would invade Lebanon and destroy its military infrastructure, he said.
In his speech to Parliament, Mubarak declared: “The people of Israel have shown an enthusiasm for peace and a readiness to accept the aftermath of peace, moderation and coexistence, and this is becoming more and more pronounced. The future depends on the increase of those who believe in peace to remove the acrimony of the past.”