JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
The Knesset endorsed the government’s foreign policy by a comfortable 56-50 majority last night, ending two days of debate during which Premier Menachem Begin repeated his rejection of President Reagan’s Mideast peace initiative, made it clear that he will never relinquish the West Bank and Gaza, and excoriated the opposition Labor Alignment for supporting a “Jordanian option.”
The Knesset debate and the vote that followed was the first parliamentary referendum on the Begin government’s policies since the massacre of Palestinians in west Beirut last month created turmoil in Israel and sparked demands that Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon resign. Its result was an easy vote of confidence in the Premier and his government’s position with respect to Lebanon as well as the future of the West Bank.
INSISTS CAMP DAVID IS THE ONLY PLAN
Begin insisted that “there is no other plan today” but the Camp David agreements which call for autonomy for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza to be followed by a five-year transition period after which the final status of the territories would be determined.
But he declared Israel would never yield those territories to Jordan or any other Arab sovereignty, would increase rather than freeze Jewish settlement there — as urged by Reagan — and would not surrender to international pressure to act otherwise.
Begin told the Knesset that the world would learn in time to accept an undivided “Eretz Israel,” meaning a greater Israel embracing the occupied territories which he refers to as Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza district.
SCORNFUL OF LABOR OPPOSITION
Begin heaped scorn on the Labor opposition which has expressed willingness to negotiate on the basis of the Reagan positions. Reagan’s proposals, which the President announced on September 1, include a Palestinian entity — though not a Palestinian state — to be associated in some form with Jordan. The American position hinges on Jordan entering the peace process with Israel, Egypt and the U.S.
Begin, who contends that the Reagan proposals contradict the Camp David accords, said he had urged King Hussein of Jordan to join the autonomy talks to no avail. The only agreed to and workable proposal is the Camp David autonomy plan, Begin said and he called for speedy resumption of negotiations within the Camp David framework. But he offered no hint of compromise to Jordan. Referring to the west Bank and Gaza, he declared: “We’ll make sure King Hussein gets neither.”
MOCKS BEGIN’S VIEW
The Labor position has been that the Reagan proposals contain some positive and some negative aspects and should not be summarily written off as a basis for negotiations. Replying to the government on behalf of the Labor Alignment, former Premier Yitzhak Rabin urged a policy of trading territory for peace.
He mocked Begin’s talk of a “range of Katyusha rockets” menacing Israel should it ever give up the West Bank. “Even under your (Likud’s) plan, Eilat, Tiberias, Beisan are all within (Jordanian) artillery range,” Rabin declared.
“The point is, whom do you make the agreement with,” Rabin said. The Labor Party would make an agreement with “the same Jordan that holds Eilat and Tiberias within its gun-range today — and would continue to do so under your plan — so don’t frighten us with talk of gun-ranges,” he said.
Rabin warned that followed to its logical conclusion, Begin’s policy would force Israel to rule over two million unwilling Palestinians and that would eventually, inevitably, rob Israel of its character as a Jewish center and a source of inspiration to the Jewish world.
DISSENT DEFUSED FOR TIME BEING
Although there has been some dissent among Begin’s coalition partners over policy since the Beirut massacre, it has apparently been defused for the time being by the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry to determine whether Israel was in any way culpable for the slaughter of civilians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps September 16-18. The massacres were carried out by units of the Christian Phalangist militia which has been closely allied to Israel.
The three-man panel, headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is expected to decide next week whether to hold open hearings. It was due to call the first witnesses today. (Related Story P. 4).
But the commission’s findings and recommendations may not be ready before the beginning of next year. Whatever they are, they are expected to affect the future of the Begin regime.
Begin said in an interview published in Maariv yesterday that he saw no prospect for a change of government and insisted that his coalition partners were “reliable.” He said he would make no more offers to the opposition for a national unity government.
But the Premier cast some doubt on his personal political future. Asked if he would serve out his term which expires in 1985, he replied that it depended upon the health of his wife, Aliza, who has been hospitalized for the past few weeks for a respiratory ailment. She suffered a relapse last weekend and was returned to the intensive care unit at Hadassah Hospital where here condition was described today as “stable.”