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Begin Derides Jordanian Option

February 26, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Premier Menachem Begin appeared before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee today to brief its members on the political situation, but what they got was a foretaste of the election campaign. He derided the Jordanian option, favored by the Labor Alignment, accused the opposition of not supporting the Camp David agreements and argued with Laborites over settlements on the West Bank.

According to Begin, the Jordanian option does not exist because King Hussein demands the return of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and is committed to turn them over to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Even then, said Begin, Hussein does not promise to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Begin charged that by advocating a Jordanian option, the Labor Party was undermining the Camp David agreements, including autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza, for which it had voted.

Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres replied that in his view Hussein is interested in the return of the West Bank to Jordan, otherwise he would not have persisted in paying the salaries of civil servants and maintaining public institutions there since the territory was captured from Jordan in 1967.

Begin repeated his familiar view that Israel had a moral right to settle on the West Bank. He asked the Laborites to explain why they had no objections to the settlements established during their tenure but want to negate the settlement policies of the present government.

Laborites retorted that the settlements in the territories should conform to Israel’s security needs and nothing else. They agreed that there should be no return to the 1967 borders but insisted there was no room for Jewish settlements in the heart of Arab populated regions.


Meanwhile, Moshe Arens, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, urged Israel to reconsider its evacuation of the Sharm el-Sheikh naval base and the two military airfields at Etzion and Etam in Sinai, due to be returned to Egypt by April, 1982.

“The evacuation of the bases is not in the best interests of the Western world,” Arens claimed. “It will bring about a deterioration in the Western strategic capability in the area,” he said in an interview on Kol Israel radio.

Arens, a Herut hardliner who opposed the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, suggested that Israel open new negotiations with Egypt to convince President Anwar Sadat that Israel’s retention of the Sinai bases, possibly under a leasing agreement, would be in Egypt’s best interest. He acknowledged that Sadat has been unalterably opposed to any continued Israeli presence in Sinai after the terms of the peace treaty have been completely fulfilled.

Arens used the “Soviet menace” in the Middle East to justify his views. He predicted that U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s visit to the Middle East this spring would result in “some very serious discussions of the strategic problems of the West in this part of the world and an appraisal of the inventory available to meet possible Soviet threats and the things that need to be done by the U.S. and by Israel to meet the common threat.”

Arens said Haig would be in Israel in April. Haig said in Washington yesterday that he would visit the region at a “reasonably early” date but gave no indication of when that would be.

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