Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Israel’s Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi said today he brought President Reagan a message from Premier Menachem Begin affirming that Israel will withdraw from the Sinai as scheduled on April 25.
“We are going to fulfill the peace treaty with Egypt till the last word according to its spirit and to the letter,” Goren told a press conference at the Israeli embassy. “We hope that Egypt will also fulfill its commitment towards Israel.”
Goren said that during his 20-minute meeting with Reagan at the White House yesterday, he also stressed that there was a “national consensus” against the establishment of a Palestinian state and that “Jerusalem will remain united” and the capital of Irael. “Zionism without Zion, this is ridiculous,” Goren asserted
The Chief Rabbi said he was sent to Washington to provide Reagan with a sense of the “moral and spiritual” feeling in Israel. He later told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it is believed in Israel that Americans are more receptive to views from religious leaders. He noted that while Israeli diplomats continue to do their work, it is sometimes valuable to hear the spiritual view of the issues.
SAYS REAGAN IS A DEVOTED FRIEND
Among those who attended the meeting at the White House were Secretary of State Alexander Haig, National Security Advisor William Clark and Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens. Goren said today that he found at the meeting that Reagan is a “great and devoted friend to Israel.” He said Reagan is committed to Israel’s security, economy, strength and freedom. The Chief Rabbi said he believed these were not just words spoken by the President but “I felt that this is something deep in his heart. He likes Israel.”
Goren said that one of the reasons is that Israel is “still the only democratic state in the Middle East. I am afraid that Israel is a super democracy, too much democracy,” the rabbi added. Goren stressed the “trauma” it is going through because of its withdrawal from Sinai. He specifically noted that Israel has to destroy homes and force settlers to leave an area that they built up with their “blood” and with their “love.”
He noted that before he left Israel, 15 Sinai settlers asked him to seek support from Reagan for them to remain in the area after the Egyptians take over. But he said he had not brought this up because Israel was committed to the withdrawal of all the settlements under the peace treaty. However, Goren noted the Sinai has always been Egyptian territory since 1904 and that the first settlers in the Sinai were the ancient Israelites who wandered there for 40 years and received their Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Goren stressed that Israel was committed to the autonomy talks but this did not mean a Palestinian state. He said he told Reagan that a Palestinian state would be “another Cuba” in the Middle East and a threat to the West as well as Israel. A Palestinian state would mean that every city and settlement in Israel would be under the threat of shelling from the Palestine Liberation Organization, Goren stressed.
Goren said that Israel would not allow the Holy land to be divided again as it was in 1922 when Jordan was created. He said the autonomy being offered the Palestinians by Israel would give them the “right of running their own lives” and at the same time remaining citizens of Jordan. He said the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would also have the right of becoming citizens of Israel and having full rights including the chance of being elected to the Knesset and serving in the Cabinet.
Goren said he told Reagan that for the Palestinian Arabs to ask to become a separate state would be like the Latin Americans in New York asking for a separate state. He said the Palestinian Arabs are a minority and as such will always have full rights. “We will not adopt the apartheid style of South Africa,” he asserted.
Goren said that also at Begin’s request he expressed the “worry” Israelis feel over the sophisticated arms the United States is selling to the Arab states, such as AWACS to Saudi Arabia and possibly F-16s to Jordan. He said Israel has always maintained its military superiority over the Arabs despite being outnumbered in size and population because of the superiority of its spirit and weaponry.
Goren said Reagan responded that by giving arms to the Arabs, it moves them closer toward peace negotiations with Israel and gave as an example the rote he said Saudi Arabia played in achieving the cease-fire across the Israeli-Lebanese border last July.
At one point in the press conference Goren objected to the use of the term Palestinians only in describing Arabs. “Who gave them the copyright for the name Palestinians?” he asked. “I am a Palestinian as well, why not?”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.