JERUSALEM (Sep. 8)
Premier Menachem Begin, in a blistering attack on President Reagan’s proposals for the West Bank and on critics of his government’s policies, at home and abroad, declared today that he would call for early elections next May or June instead of waiting until November, 1985 when the nation is next scheduled to go to the polls.
He said the early elections would serve as a plebiscite on the future of the Israel-occupied territories and predicted total defeat for the Labor Alignment which has espoused territorial compromise in exchange for peace. “We shall prove to you what will remain of the Alignment,” he said.
Addressing the Knesset in the course of a debate on the war in Lebanon and on the American positions for Palestinian autonomy, Begin delivered an uncompromising, fiercely emotional denunciation of the Reagan proposals. Charging that the purpose of the Reagan plan is to “redivide Eretz Yisrael,” Begin declared: “The government of Israel has stated its stand toward the positions relayed to me in your name. The answer is no.”
“This we cannot accept,” he said. “For you, Mr. President, it is a political matter … For me, Mr. President, this is our life, this is our homeland, our country, the land of our forefathers and our children. This is the difference and the entire world will see what dedication it will have … Judaea and Samaria to the Jewish people, for ever and ever.”
PREDICTS REAGAN’S PLAN WILL DIE
Begin predicted that the Reagan proposals, “just like previous plans, will die as well.” But he claimed that friendship between Israel and the U.S. was not in question. “With a friendly President we shall remain friends, with a friendly government we shall remain friends … There is a debate, and if necessary it will be a difficult debate.”
But Begin charged that “across the ocean” — meaning in the U.S. — there was a wide range campaign of intervention in the internal affairs of Israel.
“Officials leak and journalists write that this is the beginning of the end of Begin’s rule,” he said. “I would like to state to the editorial board of the Washington Post and to the editorial board of The New Times and to Mr. Anthony Lewis (a syndicated Times columnist) and to Rabbi (Arthur) Hertzberg (a former president of the American Jewish Congress who has been critical of some Israeli policies) that you will achieve the opposite of your aim with this talk. This is a democratic people. You will not impose on it any government or any premier. This people will elect the premier and his government.”
He repeated his initial opposition to the proposals announced by Reagan in a nationally televised broadcast September 1. He insisted on his interpretation of the Camp David accords — that autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip was for the inhabitants, not the territory. For that reason, he said, internal as well as external security must reside permanently in Israel’s hands. The Reagan proposal to hand Internal security to the Palestinians “was a bad idea,” Begin contended, and in contravention of the Camp David accords.
Similarly, the Reagan call for a freeze on Jewish settlements was not part of Camp David, Begin said. Infact, all five articles of the Reagan plan were not included in the Camp David accords. “We will not bend our knees. Nobody will tell us what our homeland is,” Begin said. He urged the Knesset to approve the government’s rejection of the Reagan plan.
This the Knesset did, by a vote of 50-36 when the debate ended. The government’s support was the same as in the vote earlier today approving the conduct of the war in Lebanon. The opposition mustered four fewer votes. More than 30 Knesset members were absent from today’s debate.