WASHINGTON (Sep. 24)
The White House acknowledged Friday that the Israeli West Bank settlements issue in the Camp David “frame works” over which President Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin have differed was “not pinned down with the clarity we like” but it expressed confidence that “common” and “adequate language will be found in a few days” to settle their differences.
A top U.S. official, emphasizing that the Begin-Carter difference is “not a great matter of controversy” and that “we expect to have a common point of view” about it, thus indicated that Carter’s original version may not be final as U.S. authorities have been insisting since last Wednesday.
The top official, who met reporters on a background basis, made his statements in connection with the disclosure by the White House of the texts of nine brief letters by Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Begin that supplement the Camp David summit conference’s two “frameworks” for a Middle East peace.
ELEMENTS IN THE VARIOUS LETTERS
As had been anticipated, three of the letters dealt with the future of Jerusalem in which the three leaders took as many separate views and thus decided to agree to disagree. Carter took the consistent U.S. position based on U.S. statements in 1967 and 1969 that East Jerusalem’s permanent status is to be negotiated and not decided on a “unilateral” action. Begin and Sadat upheld the Jewish and Arab versions previously asserted.
Four letters cover the question of the Israeli settlements in the Sinai which the Knesset must decide by Oct. 1. These views are uncontested. Another letter by the Egyptian leader to Carter said “Egypt will be prepared to assume the Arab role emanating from those provisions” of the West Bank-Gaza agreement “following consultations with Jordan and representatives of the Palestinian people.” The top official declined to interpret the meaning of this but Sadat had said last Tuesday he would go it alone regarding the West Bank and Gaza if Jordan did not join in the discussions. The ninth letter concerns Carter’s acknowledgments to Begin of Begin’s understandings that the Camp David framework documents’ references to the West Bank means “Judea and Samaria” to Begin and “Palestinian people” means “Palestinian Arabs” to Begin.
The official said that letters from the leadership referring to Carter’s pledge to build two military airfields in Israel’s Negev as compensation for Israel’s withdrawal from air bases in Sinai will be forthcoming within a few days as well as those on the West Bank settlements issue.
ISSUE OF JERUSALEM
In exchanges with reporters on the letters, a reporter asked whether East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank. The official replied, in accordance with the U.S. non-commital policy, “I don’t know.” When he was asked whether any U.S. draft language submitted to the parties at Camp David referred to “occupied Jerusalem,” the official said he would answer to that later.
“Somewhere in the 23 drafts” that had been presented by the U.S. to Egypt and Israel, he said, “we did have a paragraph” regarding freedom of access to the holy places and other factors It is understood that when President Carter handed Begin a draft referring to “occupied Jerusalem,” Begin replied that if that passage remained in the draft the Camp David conference was over. The passage was removed.
The U.S. position on Jerusalem “remains” the Carter letter to Sadat, based on the statements on July 14, 1967 by United Nations Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg, in the General Assembly, in explanation of the U.S. vote on a resolution on Jerusalem, and on July 1, 1968 by Charles W. Yost, Goldberg’s successor as Ambassador to the UN, in the Security Council, on the situation in Jerusalem.
GOLDBERG, YOST VIEWS ON JERUSALEM CITED
The White House released texts of the Goldberg and Yost statements which originally were put out by the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York. The Goldberg statement was made after Israel had taken measures on June 28, 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War, establishing East Jerusalem as Israel’s in the unified city of Jerusalem.
Goldberg said that “the safeguarding of the holy places and freedom of access to them for all should be internationally guaranteed and that the status of Jerusalem in relation to them should be decided not unilaterally but in consultation with all concerned. These statements represent the considered and continuing policy of the U.S. government.”
“With regard to the specific measures taken by the government of Israel on June 28,” Goldberg added, “I wish to make it clear that the U.S. does not accept or recognize those measures as altering the status of Jerusalem.”
The Yost statement, which came at a time when Jordan and other Arab governments were attacking Israel’s authority in a UN debate and during a period of Arab terrorism in Jerusalem, while Israel was trying for urban development, said “the status of Jerusalem is not an isolated problem but, rather, an integral part of a whole complex of issues in the current Middle Eastern conflict which must be resolved.”
Referring to “actions of Israel” in Jerusalem, Yost said: “My government regrets and deplores this pattem of activity and it has so informed the government of Israel on numerous occasions since June 1967. We have consistently refused to recognize these measures as having anything but a provisional character and do not accept them as affecting the ultimate status of Jerusalem.”
SADAT, BEGIN VIEWS ON JERUSALEM
Sadat’s letter to Carter on Jerusalem said that “Arab Jerusalem is an integral part of the West Bank” and “should be under Arab sovereignty.” He referred to “the Palestinian inhabitants of Arab Jerusalem” as “part of the Palestinian people of the West Bank.” He suggested “essential functions in the city should be undivided and a joint municipal council composed of an equal number of Arab and Israeli members can supervise the carrying out of these functions. In this way, the city shall be undivided.”
In his letter of about 100 words to Carter, Begin wrote that Israel’s Parliament promulgated and adopted a law June 28,1967 to the effect that the government of Israel “is empowered by a decree to apply the law, the jurisdiction and administration of the State to any part of Eretz Yisrael–land of Israel–Palestine as stated in that decree.” The Begin letter added “on the basis of this law the government of Israel decreed in July, 1967 that Jerusalem is one city indivisible, the capital of the State of Israel.”
ISSUE OF A FREEZE ON SETTLEMENTS
In his discussion on the settlements issue, the top official observed that the matter was discussed at Camp David on the night before the 13-day summit conference ended and that “when we left Camp David we thought there was agreement.” He declined to state how and when the issue would be resolved. “Let’s wait and see and we will know in a couple of days,” he said.
However, the official observed that the “Prime Minister perhaps did not recollect accurately” the discussions with the President and noted that press reports say Begin, when he left the U.S. for Israel via London, said he would consult with colleagues on the precise language of the Israel position. “We expect a letter” from Begin, the official said.
He also said that Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan “did talk of a freeze” of settlements during the negotiations for “a self-governing authority” for the West Bank-Gaza inhabitants.
The controversy centers on timing. Begin contends that the freeze on new settlements is for the stipulated three-month period in which Israel and Egypt are to negotiate an agreement. The U.S. says it extends during the five-year period of the “framework” dealing with the West Bank and Gaza.