Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Israeli Official Rejects View That West Bank Settlements Are a Barrier to Arabs Agreeing to Talk to

April 14, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Dan Meridor, secretary of the Israel Cabinet, rejected today the argument that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are a barrier to Jordan and other Arab countries agreeing to negotiate with Israel.

Meridor, in a discussion sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said that the United States offered King Hussein of Jordan to “put heavy pressure” on Israel to freeze the settlements if Jordan entered the negotiations. But when Hussein announced Sunday that he would not join the talks, he blamed the Palestine Liberation Organization, not Israel, because the King considers the PLO a “greater danger” to his regime than Israel, Meridor declared.

He said that Hussein could have put Israel in a “very difficult position” with the United States. But he noted that Hussein, unlike the “courageous” late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat is “afraid” because he remembers what happened to Sadat and to his own grandfather and brother, all of whom were assassinated, Meridor stressed that the main concern of the Arab regimes is with “survival.”

He emphasized that the U.S. needs to give “very substantial backing” to Lebanon and Jordan if it wants them to negotiate with Israel and not wait for “a consensus” of the Arab world or the backing of the PLO or Saudi Arabia. He said if the U.S. was not seeking Saudi approval, Israel would now have a normalization agreement with Lebanon.


“If you want peace, you have to do it step by step, one by one,” Meridor said. He said the only consensus in the Arab world is “hostility” to Israel as a non-Arab state. He said Sadat defied the Arab consensus in seeking peace with Israel and if the U.S. had waited for Saudi approval before seeking a peace treaty, Israel would still be in Sinai.

Harold Sounders, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs when the Camp David agreements were negotiated and is now a resident scholar at the AEI, said that the U.S. believed that one of the reasons the Arabs refused to join the Camp David process was that the continuing settlements on the West Bank meant that the negotiations were not “serious.” He suggested that as a “confidence-building step” Israel put a freeze on the settlements.

Meridor rejected this, noting that Israel did freeze settlements for three months after the Camp David agreements, and the Arabs did not join in the negotiations. He also said that after President Reagan’s September I peace initiative, Israel announced the establishment of five new settlements. But after that, for months, no new settlements were announced and still there was no Arab movement toward negotiations, he said.

The Israeli official stressed that if Hussein comes to the negotiations without preconditions he could discuss the settlements, borders or anything else. But he noted that Israel could not enforce a Jordanian law that prohibits Jews from living in any part of Judaea and Samaria.


But Meridor stressed that Hussein would have to come to the talks under the Camp David process. He said Israel would accept Palestinians as part of the Jordanian negotiating team. But he pointed out that whenever an Arab is willing to talk to Israel he is branded as a traitor, and in some cases, assassinated. He said with the decline of the PLO, perhaps more Palestinians would be willing to negotiate.

Meridor explained that Israel rejected the Reagan initiative even though it was based on the Camp David agreements because it was worded in a manner in which to accept it, meant approving all of its proposal. He said if someone wanted Israel to reject it, it could not have been presented in a better form. He added that Israel also rejected it because of the “way it was done,” with the Reagan Administration discussing it secretly with Jordan without Israel’s knowledge in violation of a U.S. agreement with Israel.

Meridor, who was named to his job a year ago, is in the U.S. to explain Israel’s position to officials and the media. Asked if Premier Menachem Begin is playing a lesser role, Meridor said that he is somewhat subdued since the death of his wife, Aliza, last November, but that there is no change in the firmness” of his ideas or in his handling of the government.

Recommended from JTA