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Navon Says He Warned Reagan About Egyptian Intransigence

January 7, 1983
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President Yitzhak Navon of Israel said today that he had warned President Reagan at their White House meeting yesterday that Egypt’s refusal to expand peaceful relations with Israel threatened chances for broadening the Middle East peace process.

“If this is the model, if this is what happens to peace, what sort of encouragement is that for the peace process?” Navon said in answer to questions at a National Press Club luncheon. “What sort of contribution does it give to the will for peace, the will for sacrifice, the will for giving up things?”

Noting that Israel has given up Sinai, two air bases and its oil fields and forcibly removed settlements for the sake of peace with Egypt, Navon said that Egypt has “frozen” its agreements with Israel. He said not only does Egypt criticize Israel but the Egyptian press is full of anti-Semitic articles and cartoons.

In addition, he accused Egypt of discouraging President Amin Gemayel of Lebanon from reaching a peace agreement with Israel when it should be encouraging another Arab country to have peace with the Jewish State.

Navon stressed that he believed the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was a “courageous leader” who moved for peace with Israel, not for Israel’s sake but because he believed that instead of war, Egypt needed to concentrate on improving its economy. He said he has met three times with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and believes Mubarak wants peace for the same reasons. Navon said he was optimistic that the Egyptian-Israeli peace could succeed and that would “lead to additional peace steps.”

Navon, who refused to answer political questions, said he also warned Reagan that two statements in his September I peace initiative could go against the consensus in Israel. He said that while Reagan named a Palestinian state, his other proposals could lead to one. In addition, Navon said, Reagan’s statement about more Israeli withdrawals for more peace could be interpreted as total withdrawal for total peace, but no Israeli supports withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries.

The Israeli President denied that settlements on the West Bank are an obstacle to peace. He said that while there is controversy in Israel over where to place the settlements, there is no controversy over Israel’s right to establish them. He said it was “absurd” to claim that there is any place in the Holy Land where no Jews can live.

With respect to King Hussein of Jordan joining the autonomy talks, Navon said Hussein could make a contribution if he came as an independent spokesman representing his own people. But if he comes as a surrogate for the Palestine Liberation Organization, the pre-conditions for his participation would create difficulties.

Asked if Israel would negotiate with the PLO if the latter accepted Israel’s right to exist, Navon replied that he does not accept the premise. He said the right to exist “we got from the Almighty God. I don’t need the permission from the PLO that I have the right to exist.”

He noted that the PLO covenant calls for the destruction of Israel. If they would change that clause, the questioner would then have to “ask the (Israeli) Ambassador what will happen” because it is the Ambassador, not Navon, who speaks for the Israeli government.


Asked about his own future, Navon said he would make an announcement in Israel in February. He said he had three choices: to seek a second term as President from the Knesset; to return to politics; or to retire into private life to write the many books he has planned.

On another issue, Navon denied that Israel’s soul had changed during the “Peace for Galilee” operation. He said Israel’s high moral calibre could not be shown on television as was the destruction caused by war.

Navon, a Sephardic Jew, said he believed the differences between Israel’s Sephardic and Ashkenazic populations would disappear over the next 30 years, principally because of intermarriage, education and the army.

When a reporter proposed a cross country ski tournament between Israel, Syria and Lebanon as a way to promote peace, “a sort of slalom for shalom,” Navon replied, “If you promise me snow, I go.”


In an interview with ABC-TV “Good Morning America” program today, Navon said the U.S. could encourage President Amin Gemayel of Lebanon to resist Arab pressure and agree to peaceful co-existence with Israel. “I wish the United States would encourage him to the extent they find feasible.” Navon said.

He noted that Israel seeks two objectives in its talks with Lebanon: security arrangement and some form of “civilian co-existence.” He said Israel had already dropped demands for a peace treaty.” But we want to know that we are living with that neighbor peacefully and there should be some way of co-existence.” However, Navon added, “There are elements in the Arab world who do not encourage Gemayel to have these relations.”

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