TEL AVIV (May. 25)
Premier Menachem Begin reiterated today that there will be no autonomy talks unless Egypt agrees to hold some of them in Jerusalem. “If Jerusalem is boycotted, we will boycott those who boycott us,” he told students at Bar Han University. “If Israel is pressed, we will press back,” he said.
Begin spoke at cornerstone-laying ceremonies for a new building at the university to be named in honor of himself and his wife, Aliza Begin. His remarks were seen as a signal that Israel will not retreat from its venue position under pressure expected to be brought to bear by the United States shortly to get the long stalled autonomy negotiations re-started.
SOME DISCONCERTING DEVELOPMENTS
Secretary of State Alexander Haig will deliver a major-Middle East policy address in Chicago tomorrow. It is believed he will present American proposals aimed at returning Israel and Egypt to the negotiating table. According to media reports in the U.S., the proposals include elements that may not sit well with the Israelis.
Israel is also expected to object vigorously to planned meetings between Reagan Administration officials, possibly including Haig, and the two mayors it deported from the West Bank in 1980, Fahd Kawasme of Hebron and Mohammed Milhem off Halhoul.
They were ousted for allegedly inciting anti-Israel acts that culminated in the ambush slaying of seven yeshiva students in Hebron in May, 1980. The Administration reportedly has agreed to meet with them in Washington in on effort to draw Palestinian representatives into the autonomy talks.
Although Israel insists they are agents of the Palestine Liberation Organization, neither mayor is a member of the PLO and by talking with them, the U.S. would not be technically violating its commitment to have no contacts with the PLO until the latter recognizes Israel.
SOME ANTICIPATED U.S. PROPOSALS
According to some reports in the American media, the Administration will, for the first time, offer concrete proposals on the autonomy issue in an effort to break the impasse. Apart from the venue problem, these proposals, which may be unveiled in Haig’s Chicago speech, Include a limitation on new Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
In that connection the U.S. may suggest that existing public lands on the West Bank could not be redesignated for any new use, such as new settlements. The U.S. may also support Palestinian rights to share in water resources.
Another possible compromise would be to give East Jerusalem Arabs the right to vote for “at large” representatives to the West Bank administrative council, the proposed self-governing authority. Israel maintains that East Jerusalem in not part of the West Bank and therefore its residents cannot participate in the voting.
The U.S. is expected to remain vague on the ultimate results of autonomy. The Palestinians demand self-determination, leading to the establishment of their own state. The Israelis have already served notice that they intend to assert their claim to permanent sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the five-year autonomy transition period. Washington is not likely to take a position on that hard core issue at this time.
REAGAN INVITES BEGIN TO WHITE HOUSE
Meanwhile, it was announced in Jerusalem today that Begin has received a “most friendly” invitation from President Reagan to lunch with him at the White House on June 21. The Premier will be in the U.S. next month for the United Nations disarmament conference and is to address the UN General Assembly on June 18. Reagan’s invitation was conveyed by U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis. Israeli officials said the meeting would
Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, currently in Washington, was meeting today with Haig and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He voiced Israel’s unqualified opposition to proposed U.S. sales of modern sophisticated weaponry to Jordan and other Arab countries. (See separate story).
At last Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Begin angrily accused Weinberger of paying “lip service” to Israel’s security while advocating weapons sales to Israel’s enemies. The Defense Secretary retorted at a press conference in Detroit yesterday, “We pay a great deal more than lip service to our unswerving commitment to Israel,” he said. He added, however, that “one of the best ways” the U.S. commitment to Israel “can be fulfilled is to have a network of other friendships in the Middle East.”