JERUSALEM (Apr. 4)
Affirming Israel’s continued “quest for peace” and commitment to the Camp David accords with Egypt, Premier Menachem Begin declared his government’s intentions to move ahead with negotiations for an agreement on autonomy for the Palestinian people on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Noting that the peace treaty with Egypt “has with-stood the test,” Begin said in a statement in conjunction with Israel’s 35th Independence Day, which will be marked April 18, that Israel wishes “to move ahead speedily to consummate the other part of the Camp David accords, namely the negotiations on the full autonomy for the Palestinian Arab inhabitants in Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza District. We want these negotiations renewed.”
“There are proposals, positions and plans, but there exists only one single document of an international character that is binding, and that is the Camp David agreement …. Just as we remained true to the date and dot to the other part of Camp David — the peace treaty with Egypt — so shall we remain true to the other at the heart which lies the autonomy program,” the Israeli Premier said. “Its negotiations and realization is the key to the further advancement of the peace process to which Israel is firmly committed.”
Begin said that despite the recent “strains in the “relations between Israel and Egypt,” the Jewish State looked forward to strengthening relations “through a progressive interchange of trade, culture and tourism between our two ancient peoples.”
Begin also defended Israel’s invasion of Lebanon last June, saying that the people of Israel’s northern communities have now been granted “a new life of peace, serenity and security” after seven years of Palestinian terrorist assaults. He said the strength of the PLO “had reached a point that Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona faced the threat of physical destruction.”
While maintaining that Israel does “not covet on inch of Lebanese territory,” Begin reiterated that the “one goal of policy of the government of Israel is to live in good peaceful relations with our northern neighbor, Lebanon, whose sovereignty and integrity we respect, and to ensure and guarantee that never again will the blood of the Galileans be shed.”
He said “the ultimate mission of our generation” is aliya, but added that many Jews who wish to come to Israel cannot because of the “hostile policies” of the regimes in which they live, notably, Syria, Ethiopia, Iran and the Soviet Union. He praised the “unbelievable courage” of Soviet Jewry who live in “a state of distress. After some years of emigration, the doors of the USSR have been slammed shut,” he noted.