NEW YORK (Sep. 7)
Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, except for Egypt, seemed as elusive as ever as the year 5742 concluded. Tension which had been mounting during the year between Israel and the United States crested early September when President Reagan unwrapped his plan for peace in the Middle East.
What he termed a “fresh start” was flatly rejected by Israel as a deviation from the Camp David accords. Reagan’s demand that Israel freeze plans for expanding existing settlements or establishing new ones on the West Bank, along with his call for Palestinian self-government in the occupied areas in a federation with Jordan, was viewed by Israel as a threat to its security.
Israel’s leaders noted that the very accords which were being derailed by Reagan’s plan were the basis for the only peace agreement Israel had ever achieved with its largest Arab neighbor, Egypt. Israel’s return of the Sinai peninsula in strict compliance with the Camp David agreements provided a ray of hope in a year otherwise marked by stress and uncertainty.
The year’s highlight was marked by Israel’s “Peace for Galilee” operation which destroyed the PLO militarily and politically. The operation, which was launched June 6 and ended 10 weeks later, laid the basis for the evacuation of some 15,000 PLO and Syrian forces from Beirut The operation was hailed as a major success by Israel’s leaders but its very success further isolated Israel in world public opinion because of the heavy bombardment of Beirut by the Israel Defense Force.
Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments were fanned in Western Europe and in the United States by an irresponsible news media which depicted Israel’s military actions in Lebanon as almost Nazi-like in its “blitzkrieg” tactics. But many Jews, inside and outside Israel, also questioned the severity of Israel’s bombardments and its drive beyond the original objective outlined by the government to establish a 25-mile terrorist-free zone.
One of the great tragedies of the year was the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who broke the historic mold, first by visiting Jerusalem, and then by signing the Camp. David accords together with Premier Menachem Begin of Israel and President Carter. One of the major elements of the accords was a framework for autonomy for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. By year’s end, however, the negotiations had not moved beyond the point where they were deadlocked three years ago, and Egypt, under President Hosni Mubarak, was balking at resuming the autonomy talks.
THE MIDDLE EAST: SEPTEMBER 1981 —
Begin meets with Reagan for the first time and reaches agreement on a new strategic relationship between Israel and the U.S. Begin proclaims a “new era” in U.S.-Israeli relations.
Normalization talks between Egypt and Israel conclude with noted progress, including overland postal deliveries on a daily basis and direct phone and telex links between the two countries.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemns Israel for its continuation of archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem.
UNESCO votes to place East Jerusalem on UNESCO’s World Heritage List thus giving Jordan the right to take part in the international supervision of cultural and historical sites in that area. OCTOBER —
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is assassinated by a group of Egyptian soldiers as he watches a military parade in Nasser city. Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, announces that Egypt will adhere to its treaties and carry on working for peace in the Middle East.
“It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy,” declares Reagan, obliquely sending a strong rebuke to Israel for its vociferous objections to the AWACS sale.
Reagan wins approval of the $8.5 million arms package sale to Saudi Arabia, after a 52-48 vote in the Senate in favor of the arms deal. NOVEMBER —
Sharon warns that unless the Syrian SAM-6 missile batteries are removed by diplomatic means from the Bekaa valley in Lebanon, Israel would be forced to “take other action” to remove them.
The U.S. and Israel sign a memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation establishing a “framework for continued consultation and cooperation” between the two states.
Britain, France, Italy and Holland announce they will participate in the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) which will patrol Sinai following Israel’s withdrawal from the peninsula in April.
Reagan says he found a “hopeful sign” in the plan for a Mideast peace proposed by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for its “implicit” recognition of Israel, causing considerable concern in Israel as to the U.S. commitment to the Camp David peace process.
King Hussein of Jordan, visiting the U.S., predicts that “Israeli intransigence” would result in a “reassessment” by the Reagan Administration of its Middle East policy.
Khazem Al Khatib, 23, is murdered and his father, Yussuf Al Khatib, 60 is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt by the PLO of the two Palestinian moderates from the West Bank. Yussuf Al Kbatib died later from his wounds. DECEMBER —
French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, after a 24-hour visit to Israel and meetings with Israeli officials, says there will be no more European peace initiatives in the region, indicating that as for as France is concerned, the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Venice declaration of June 1980 was dead.
Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko, in Paris, says all obstacles for the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel have been lifted.
The Knesset adopts a bill applying Israeli law to the Golan Heights, amounting to annexation of the Syrian held territory captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. The U.S. supports a UN call on Israel to rescind its Golan Law.
Washington announces the suspension of the recently signed memorandum of understanding with Israel because of the Golan Law.
Begin, in one of the most bitter attacks ever delivered against the U.S. by an Israeli leader, accuses the Reagan Administration of trying to “punish” Israel by suspending the memorandum of understanding and of treating Israel like a “vassal state.”
Saudi Arabia’s acting delegate to the UN, Gaafar Allogamy, says the Fahd plan recognizes Israel by affirming in point seven of the plan “the right of all countries of the region to live in peace.” Two days later, this view is officially disavowed by “on official Saudi source.” JANUARY 1982 —
Secretary of State Alexander Haig, ending his second trip to Israel and Egypt in two weeks, admits there are “still more differences than there are agreements” over the issue of autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Kamal Hassan Ali calls on Israel and the PLO to mutually recognize one another, and affirms that Egypt is in contact with the PLO through its representatives in Cairo.
Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem and Mayor Rashad Shawa of Gaza call on the PLO to recognize Israel. Other Mayors reject the urgings.
The U.S. vetoes a Jordanian-sponsored Security Council resolution which calls for “considering effective measures” against Israel for its annexation of the Golan Heights.
Official Saudi state Riyadh Radio broadcasts a statement by a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry saying there is no truth to the statement by Prince Saudi el Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, that his government was prepared to accept Israel on the condition that it recognizes Palestinian rights and returns all the occupied territories.
In the first high level contact of its kind since 1978, Pope John Paul II meets with Shamir and calls on Israel to work harder for “a just and stable peace” in the Mideast and to “adhere to international conventions.” FEBRUARY —
Mubarak, meeting in Washington with Reagan for the first time, says the key to peace and stability in the Middle East “is to solve the Palestinian problem” and that both Israel and the Palestinians “have an inherent right to exist and function as a national entity, free from domination and fears.”
Israel’s Cabinet formally approves the participation of four European countries in the Sinai peacekeeping force.
Begin serves notice on the PLO that if any Israeli citizen is killed as a result of a PLO attack anywhere, Israel would take “immediate action” against the PLO terrorist bases in Lebanon.
Special Presidential envoy Philip Habib goes on his fourth mission to the Mideast to preserve the fragile cease-fire across the Israel-Lebanon border which he negotiated last summer.
Reports of U.S. intentions to sell advanced weaponry to Jordan causes a storm of protest both in Washington and Jerusalem resulting in a Reagan to Begin letter reassuring the Israeli Premier that “Israel remains America’s friend and ally.” MARCH —
Israeli authorities oust the elected Mayor of El Bireh, Ibrahim Tawil, and the town council, triggering the largest demonstrations on the West Bank since Israel occupied the territory 15 years ago.
In a continuing purge of pro-PLO officials on the West Bank, Israeli authorities oust the West Bank Mayors Bassam Shaka of Nablus and Karim Khalaf of Ramallah on the grounds that they were agents for the PLO.
For only the second time since Israel captured the Golan Heights, a Druze town is placed under curfew because of a continuing strike by Druze residents protesting Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.
With violence escalating in the occupied territories, the Cabinet affirms that the government would “continue undaunted” its policies on the West Bank which are aimed at destroying the PLO influence there while giving all possible aid to Arab residents who are prepared to “observe the law and keep the peace.”
Sharon announced the banning of the National Guidance Committee, the pro-PLO organization working on the West Bank.
Members of the U.S. 82 Airborne Division arrive in Ophira at the southern tip of Sinai marking the first arrival of troops who will act as a peacekeeping force in Sinai.
Former President Ford offers to meet with PLO chief Yasir Arafat as a “private citizen” to further PLO participation in the Middle East peace process.
Israel Cabinet announces it would forego the scheduled visit of Mubarak as a result of the Egyptian leader’s refusal to include Jerusalem on his itinerary. APRIL —
Just days before the withdrawal from Sinai is to be completed, Israel’s Air Force hits Palestinian buses over a wide area of Lebanon in what is officially described as a “counter-attack” in retaliation for “bloody attacks and murderous acts” by terrorists against Israeli citizens in Israel and Europe.
Israel completes its evacuation of Sinai, returning the peninsula to full Egyptian control in strict compliance with the timetable established by the Camp David accords and the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty signed three years ago. MAY —
Another elected Arab official, Mayor Wahid Hamdallah of Anabta village, is removed from office after an Israeli court finds him guilty of alleged security violations.
The Knesset endorses a policy statement by Begin affirming that Jewish settlements will never again be removed even in the context of peace agreements with Arab countries, and that Israel will lay formal claim to the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the end of the five year autonomy transition period.
Talks between Egypt and Israel over Palestinian autonomy become snagged on the issue of venue. Israel insists that Jerusalem be a site for the talks while Egypt refuses to send its delegation to the Israeli capital.
Ashraf Ghorbal, Egypt’s Ambassador to the U.S., suggests that the Reagan Administration conduct a “dialogue” with the PLO as a means to induce the organization “to take steps” toward recognition of Israel.
Costa Rica moves its Embassy back to Jerusalem after transferring it to Tel Aviv in accordance with UN resolutions after the Jerusalem’ law is adopted in 1971 declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel.
Israel formally re-opens its Embassy in Kinshasha, Zaire, after re-establishing diplomatic relations with the Black African country.
Begin accuses Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger of paying “lip service” to Israel’s security while advocating the sale of modern U.S. weaponry to Israel’s enemies — Iraq and Jordan.
Strains develop between Jerusalem and Cairo and Washington over Israel’s support of Iran in its war with Iraq. Sharon earlier had confirmed reports that Israel was supplying Iran with “small quantities” at arms.
Israel launches its “Peace for Galilee” operation in Lebanon which Begin assures Reagan is solely designed to push the PLO out of rocket and artillery range of Israel’s northern border settlements. In two days, Israeli forces cover twice the intended distance of 25 miles and sit on the outskirts of Beirut.
Haig resigns over split with other Administration officials on foreign policy matters. George Shultz, a conservative economist and industrialist, is named as his successor.
The Syrian SAM-6 missile battery installations in the Bekaa volley are destroyed by the Israel Air Force. The missiles were the focus of tension in the region and the subject of several diplomatic shuttle efforts in the region by Philip Habib.
While Israel’s war in Lebanon rages, Begin arrives at the White House in Washington and claims that the U.S. has provided implicit support for Israel’s goals in Lebanon.
Begin meets with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in closed session in what observers describe as one of the toughest exchanges ever between American lawmakers and a visiting head of state.