Begin: Despite Differences with Sadat over Palestinian Issue Ismailia Talks Were Successful
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Begin: Despite Differences with Sadat over Palestinian Issue Ismailia Talks Were Successful

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Premier Menachem Begin returned from Ismailia this morning declaring that his talks there with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt were successful despite “fundamental” differences between Israel and Egypt on the issue of the Palestinian Arabs.

He told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport that a joint statement of agreement in principle was not possible at this time because the Egyptians insist on a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and would not accept Israel’s proposal for self-rule for the Arab populations of those territories. (See story from Ismailia.)

However, Begin said, the positions of both sides remain the basis for continuing negotiations He said the decision reached at Ismailia to establish joint political and military committees under the rotating chairmanships of the Israeli and Egyptian foreign and defense ministers respectively gave new momentum to the peace-making process.

Begin said the committees would begin their work in the middle of next month–Jan. 14 or 15–and estimated that it would take 2-3 months to complete their task. “We hope they will bring us agreements which, in turn, will lead to peace,” the Premier said.

He said the chairmanships would alternate on a weekly basis. The political committee will meet in Jerusalem presided over by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan while the military committee convenes in Cairo under the chairmanship of Egyptian War Minister Gen. Mohammed Gamassy In the second week, Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman will assume the chairmanship in Cairo and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Kaamel will take over the political committee in Jerusalem.


Begin spoke frankly of his differences with Sadat and indicated that they had decided amicably to stand on their respective positions pending further negotiations. “There was a suggestion that we come up ‘with a common statement.’ We discussed this for long and many hours. There were points we agreed upon but there was disagreement over the issue of the Palestinian Arabs. There was an Egyptian formula that we could not accept and we brought up our proposals which the Egyptians could not accept, “Begin said.” We discussed this more hours last night, thinking that maybe in the morning we might find an acceptable phrasing.

“However, it turned out that the differences on this issue were fundamental. The Egyptians insisted on the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank which we rejected totally. And the Egyptians could not accept our proposal that the Palestinian Arabs get self-rule or what is termed autonomous administration. When we found there was no possibility of coming out with a common statement we followed the usual formula that when such a statement is impossible each side expresses its own attitude. We suggested that to Sadat and he accepted it.

“Thus, the statement that Sadat read at Ismailia: ‘The Israeli and Egyptian delegations have discussed the Palestinian problem. The Egyptian attitude is that a Palestinian state should be formed in the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli attitude is that the Palestinian Arabs get self-rule. The issue will be discussed in the political committee.”

Begin stressed, however, that “the momentum continues.” He said that “in three weeks or so the negotiations will be resumed at the ministerial level. The Egyptians have received the Israeli plan as a basis for negotiations. They will prepare a counter-plan that will be discussed in the committees.”

The Premier reported on his talks with Sadat to President Carter by telephone tonight and also to Prime Minister James Callaghan of Britain. Begin, who will present his plan to the Knesset, said that party discipline would be lifted and each member will be free to vote his conscience.

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