PM Begin in an Interview with Luxemburg Radio (Paris) in Jerusalem
But, as far as the political negotiations are concerned, are they going to resume soon in Jerusalem?
First of all, I would like to explain why the cabinet took today the decision to renew the negotiations within the framework of the military committee. As a result of the sudden decision by President Sadat ten days ago to disrupt the negotiations within the framework of the political committee in Jerusalem, there was then, during the last week, may I say, a kind of an avalanche in the Egyptian press of anti-Semitic remarks. They called me Shylock. As you know, for three centuries, since Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice, this is a catchword by all the anti-Semites. In the sense of that word, anti-Semitism, which was, actually, for the first time, used in Germany in the 19th century. Instead of anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic. Then, there were expressions like "Dealing with Jews means dealing with speculators" and even more bitter remarks. We, of course, couldn't overlook them because those publications were injurious to the dignity of the Jewish people and Israel, which is a Jewish state, will defend the dignity of the Jewish people. Therefore, we decided to reconsider this matter of sending our delegation to the military committee in Cairo after a certain period of time during which we would observe whether the Egyptian press desists from using those anti-Semitic remarks. And, indeed, they ceased using those expressions which were so injurious to our people. Today, there appeared an article in the weekly October with a very violent, wild, personal attack against me, but that is the difference. As I said, personal attacks on me will not be of any political consideration. It's a professional risk. It goes with the office. And my colleagues in the cabinet today in the morning condemned, in very sharp words, that outburst, but I asked them not to bring in this personal attack into their political calculations and decisions. As those anti-Semitic slurs stopped, we today could have taken and did take a decision to send, during the week, our defense minister, General Weizmann, with his advisors to Cairo. So I hope the negotiations within the framework of the military committee will start this week. As far as the political committee is concerned, we, of course, would like to see them also renewed and if the other side, the Egyptians, agree, then, of course, the political committee will renew its deliberations in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem only, because President Sadat and I agreed at Ismailia that there should be two committees. One will sit in Cairo and the other, in Jerusalem. This is justice and we shall stand by the decision.
Egyptian president Anwar Sadat decided recently to go to Washington Friday. Do you plan to go to Washington during the same time?
No, not during the same time. I got a message from President Carter yesterday about the forthcoming visit of President Sadat explaining that he would like to have a very detailed discussion with him which he didn't have at Aswan. It was a very short visit of the president of the United States. I think the talk between the two presidents then and there lasted only some 40 or 45 minutes. I myself will be going on the 30th of April to the United States for the celebration of our 30th anniversary of the proclamation of our independence. I just want to celebrate this great and historic event together with the Jewish community in the United States. For the time being, I don't have any other plans of any additional visit to the United States.
If, what nobody wishes, if one day you happen to come to a point of rupture with the Egyptians, will, according to you, the situation will be more critical than before President Sadat's visit to Jerusalem?
Why should I assume a rupture? Of course, everything depends on both sides. Israel doesn't want any rupture. We want to negotiate seriously, openly, decently with the Egyptian side about declaration of principles, about demilitarization of the Sinai Desert, about security arrangements. Of course, it is a detailed negotiation and it should be conducted with an open heart, in good spirit and with patience. Such peace treaties cannot be signed after a negotiation of 24 hours. And, of course, Israel has got its own point of view how to make sure that our children will live in peace and security, real security. The point of view of the Egyptians may be different. These are negotiations for. And, therefore, we don't envisage any further disruption. If it happens, then when we cross the bridge, or, rather, when we come nearer the bridge, we'll decide how to cross it. For the time being, the negotiations are renewed and let us hope for the best.
President Sadat has stated a few times that the conflict, the Israeli-Arab conflict, is essentially a psychological one. Do you agree with this statement?
I think, to a certain extent, his definition was the right one. We can see now, from all the outbursts of the controlled Egyptian press and, as I said, its poisoned atmosphere last week, let us hope those special anti-Semitic slurs will not be repeated. This is psychological. But when we sit down to the table and conduct negotiations to conclude peace treaties, then, of course, the question is not psychological. It may be political and it may be military and there are many problems, as anybody who's ever discussed peace treaties after a war understands. I lately read an article in The New York Times reminding the Americans that they conducted negotiations about the treaty concerning the Panama Canal for 13 years. We didn't yet negotiate for 13 days. We only started. So let us continue.
How long will it take, in your opinion?
If everything goes well, it should take a few months.
When you negotiate with Egypt, do you get the feeling that you negotiate with the rest of the Arabic countries?
No, we negotiate with Egypt. Egypt cannot speak for Syria, neither can it speak for Jordan nor for the Palestinian Arabs. This we heard from President Sadat himself. For instance, Syria. Assad is now completely hostile, not only to Israel, but also to Egypt and to President Sadat. Or the people of the so-called PLO. They several weeks ago said there is a solution to the problem through one bullet, and they meant President Sadat, so they want to send a bullet into the heart of President Sadat. How can he speak on their behalf? So the negotiations should be with Egypt. But we understood that President Sadat would like to represent problems which are of general concern to the Arabs. For instance, I would like, myself, to say that the problem of autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs residing in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District is of moral value. I may call it a Jewish-Arab moral problem. And, therefore, we can and we would like to discuss it with President Sadat and, therefore, we agreed. But, as far as all the other problems are concerned, when it comes to peace treaties, then we will conduct the negotiations with the proper countries. President Sadat cannot speak on their behalf, as he himself said to us.
Let's come to your peace plan. The problem of the Israeli villages, settlements in the northern Sinai. Sadat told his parliament a few days ago that he would fight to the end in order to dismantle those villages.
He didn't say he would fight to the end. He said, "On this, I will fight you to the end of all generations." I was, may I say, quite astonished. Sadat, with all due respect, is a mortal, as I am. We are all mortals and to the end of all generations? That's a long time to go. That is, may I say – as I, myself, from time to time make a speech – a rhetoric hyperbole, or a hyperbolic rhetoric figure. So it should be thus understood, or, as you say in French, [French 9:40]. And we can agree on that. Yes, I heard him, so he said so. This is one of the difference of opinion between us, and we should negotiate on it, as it was established at Ismailia. When I came to Ismailia, I presented to President Sadat our peace plan, the first part of it concerning Sinai. And I told him expressly, in clear words, "We have settlements there and we have a principle of self-defense of our settlements." So it was a clear statement made by us to him. He didn't accept it. But the summing up by him was, "We shall negotiate on the difference of opinion." This is one difference of opinion. Now there is another difference of opinion. For instance, when President Sadat was in Jerusalem, he gave me a pledge that, when we sign a peace treaty, the Egyptian army will not cross, as you see on the map, the Gidi and the Mitla passes. And this means a distance from that line to the international border of nearly 200 km. Between 180 and 200 km. But when our defense minister came to Cairo and started talking with General Gamasy, the war minister of Egypt, General Gamasy produced to him a map and on the map we saw a line from the international border only of 40 km. So the demilitarization should start with a difference of nearly 140 or 160 km. In other words, the bulk of the Sinai Desert, in accordance with General Gamasy's plan, should be remilitarized. We stand on demilitarization. That was promised to me, personally, by President Sadat. Now we have on this a very far-reaching difference of opinion. But again I say, difference of opinion should be negotiated. And both problems, of the settlements and of the demilitarization, of all other security arrangements, should be the subject of our negotiations.
Is there any possibility to exchange territory between Israel and Egypt to settle this problem of…
There is no such Israeli suggestion about it whatsoever. There won't be.
When we come to Judea, Samaria and Gaza, you propose autonomous administration of the local Palestinian population. According to you, after a certain lapse of time, do you think that this population could freely decide about her future?
Well, the question is very simple. We shouldn't, let me say, beat about the bush. The question is whether we should live together with our Arab neighbors – in peace, in dignity, in equality, they shall have autonomy, we shall not interfere with their daily lives, we shall have security – or whether there will be what is called a Palestinian state. We will never agree to such a Palestinian state. It will be a mortal danger to us. If you look at a map, you will see there behind us the mountains of Samaria and of Judea and on both sides there are valleys – the Valley of Jordan to the east and the valley of the sea, the Mediterranean, to the west. And, should there be such a Palestinian state, then all of our civilian population would be in the range of their fire. Men, women and children. It would be permanent bloodshed, another war in the most horrible conditions. Also, from the point of view of the free world, it would be a Soviet base in no time. From Odessa, the Soviets would send weapons, sophisticated, modern. They did so to Ethiopia, to Angola, to Mozambique. From Odessa to Bethlehem is only a flight time of nearly two hours, by a cargo jet, supersonic plane, which the Soviet Union possess in numbers. So, therefore, this should be clarified to everybody. It is not a matter of self-determination. The great Arab people have got the right of self-determination in an unprecedented form. They have 21 sovereign states and they have a territory of 12 million square kilometers. To them, it is neither a problem of our determination, or self-determination, nor a problem of territory. And if anybody says to us, "You have to have a Palestinian state," to us it is proof that he doesn't want peace, he wants us to be an easy prey to attack on all sides and this we shall, of course, not allow. Therefore, we stand on the justice of the cause. The great Arab people now count more than 100 million. This is 1% of the great Arab people. Self-determination is for peoples, for nations, not for fractions of nations. May I respectfully ask you whether France is prepared to give self-determination to the Corsicans? There is some pride in Corsica and there was also during the lifetime of the father of Napoleon Bonaparte, as we read. And yet, all France agrees that Corsica is an integral part of France. And so is Brittany, as I understand. And I can give more and more examples. Self-determination is, as I say, for nations, not for fractions. Every great nation has got somebody part of it under a different government, and there is no tragedy and no wrong in it. To us, it is a matter of national security, indeed of our lives. Let me also add this. From time to time I hear from France an advice. "Well, you should take into consideration the word that is used, La Palestin, etc." We are very grateful for that advice. But let me remind every Frenchman – and, you know, I am an admirer of France, since my boyhood I love France – to you, my dear friends, it's a matter of policy, perhaps important policy. It's connected with oil, it is connected with selling arms. To us, it's a matter of our lives, just of our lives. C'est notre vie.
Does a real Palestinian people exist, according to you?
Palestinian Arabs. We are Palestinians. We sit here with my friend and here is my nephew and we are Palestinians because Palestine is the name of this country. It's a foreign name, indeed. The historic Hebrew name is the land of Israel or, in Hebrew, Eretz Israel. But mainly since the days of Emperor Adrianus of the Roman time, who crushed the Bar Kochba Revolt, he out of wrath decided to delete or strike out any connection between our people and the land and renamed from Judea, which was the proper Roman name, this country into Syria et Palestina. And since then, in French, you call it La Palestin. And in English, you call it Palestine. In Spanish, Palestina. Etc. This is the name of our land. So we are Palestinians. Palestinian Jews. And there are Palestinian Arabs. Now, we want to live together with them in decency and therefore our peace plan autonomy. In other words, autonomy to the Palestinian Arabs, security to the Palestinian Jews. So when you speak about the Palestinian people in abstract, then it is not the proper name. If you say Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews, this is the realistic description of the situation.
According to you, Mr. Prime Minister, is the key of the conflict, of negotiation, in the hand of President Carter?
No, I wouldn't say so. I think President Carter played a very great and very positive role in making this direct negotiations between Egypt and Israel possible. As I wrote to him before President Sadat arrived in Jerusalem, "People say it's an historic moment and you, Mr. President" – I am referring to the president of the United States – "have created it." But the key, actually, is in the hands of the nations living in this area. The United States can help much and, in the last few months, was very helpful, but the key is amongst the people who live in this region itself.
Mr. Prime Minister, you expressed more than once the intention to come to Paris, to visit Paris. President Giscard d'Estaing, as far as we know, has invited you to come.
No. Well, the intention. I love France and love Paris. You know that I was in Paris before you were born. No, I'm sorry, I have to correct my mistake. When you were a little child. And since then I was in Paris scores of times. It's the most beautiful city in the world. As far as my visit now to Paris is concerned, I wouldn't go on a private visit. I was on private visits when I was leader of the opposition in our parliament and that was alright, but now I'm the prime minister and I represent my country as a result of a democratic election and confidence of the people given to my colleagues and myself and if I should go after the election for the first time to France, it should be an official visit at the invitation of the president. And the president lately said that my visit cannot take place before the elections to the French parliament. So I will be patient and wait until after March.
But do you think there is a possibility of the renewal of the old Franco-Israeli alliance dating back to 1950?
Whether it is possible depends on France. We want it. You know, when I presented for the first time the government to the Knesset, it was seven months ago. I made a statement about the following three countries. One was the United States. I expressed hope that our friendship will be deepened. It is. Then I spoke about France, that we had an alliance. We were friends. We stood together. We worked together. We fought together. And it is one of the most amazing phenomena in our generation that, instead of that alliance, we have now a completely negative policy of France towards Israel, lining up not only with the Arab misinterpretation of Resolution 242 to the effect that that means total withdrawal, which it does not mean, but from time to time hearing declarations that are very detrimental to the future of the state of Israel, to its security. Sometimes, I cannot answer myself the question: how can it happen? France, of all peoples. That France which saw our tragedy during the Second World War. That France that saw the hundreds of thousands of Jews dragged to a wanton death, from France itself. And that France which helped us in our fight for which we are always grateful. That France with which we cooperated for so many years and which General De Gaulle called notre ami et allié – not only our friend, but our ally – now has that negative policy. So this hurts us very deeply. And, therefore, when I spoke to the Knesset, I said we hope for the renewal of our alliance – let me say at least the spirit of the alliance, if not the alliance itself. And then I mentioned normalization with the Soviet Union. Those were the only three countries I mentioned – the United States, France, and normalization with the Soviet Union. As you can understand, when one singles out three nations, he feels something special, as I do about France. But there was no positive echo. I would like to distinguish here – I know we have many friends in France; there was now with General Bénouville a group of my French friends, of the Senate and the National Assembly. We had a wonderful talk and they understand us. And I have many more friends in both houses of parliaments and throughout France. Not only Jews, Christians, between all the French people I believe the vast majority goes on, continues supporting Israel. But the official policy is a different story and this hurts us very much. However, again I repeat, we stretch out our hand to France and there should be a positive policy and at least the spirit of our alliance should be renewed. If this happens, we will be very happy.
Do you think that right now, an initiative taken by the European community would be welcome to make the peace process go ahead?
If it should be positive, of course it will be welcome. But at least we know that if anybody should suggest to have that declaration of denial adopted several months ago, which was completely negative towards Israel, then it can't be a unanimous resolution. I know that several countries, I spoke to the prime ministers of these countries and we exchanged also letters, I will not oppose such a repetition of that declaration. So let us hope, whatever was written once, is written. As we say, "scripta manent." They said, but it won't be a repetition of those detrimental declarations by the line.
Let's come back to Egypt. You said a few days ago that you get sometimes the impression that President Sadat, that there are two President Sadats, two men, two different President Sadats.
I said that there were two October interviews. The newspaper October in which yesterday that article by a certain, what is his name?
Mansour. By a certain Mr. Mansour was published. Such an article I treat with the contempt it deserves. I don't want to go into polemics with Mr. Mansour. In that weekly, October, there were three interviews with President Sadat. The first was a very good expression of his attitude, even if there were some jokes about us. I also like to make some jokes, even about ourselves. You need a sense of humor. Why not? But it was all in the spirit of friendship. The second interview was absolutely amazing. And then I asked the question, is it the same man, Anwar Sadat, who I met in Jerusalem? We talked for more than two and a half hours only the two of us, and when we finished the conversation, President Sadat said, "You are my friend." This is a very serious declaration to make to a former enemy. And with the [unclear 26:06] we really started friendship. I don't take lightly such a statement. I remember it, and therefore I have still a sentiment for President Sadat. But when he spoke about all those things which I do not want now to repeat, I said, "Perhaps there is another man called Sadat. Perhaps there are two Anwar Sadats." But this was also a rhetorical question. It was also, may I say, maison de paille, about my own statement. But that was the question and because the two October interviews were abysmally different, one from the other.
Mr. Sadat is going, as you know, to Washington. Aren't you afraid that he tries, by going to Washington, to exert pressures upon the American government, asking this American government to exert pressure upon you?
No, I am not afraid. You see, I presented our peace plan in both parts to President Carter before I went to see President Sadat at Ismailia. All the details were presented, including the Jewish settlements, including demilitarization, the autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs. All the details were put to the table. And, of course, I cannot divulge what President Carter told me privately in the Cabinet Room, but he made public statements, and I will quote some of his public statements. "A great deal of flexibility." A quotation from the president of the United States. "A long step forward." Another quotation from the mouth of President Carter. The secretary of state read out himself a communiqué on the 17th of December, after my visit to the White House. "A notable contribution to peace." "A very constructive approach." This was only said six weeks ago. So that cannot be changed. May I say about it, also, scripta manent. It was not only said, it was written. And therefore why should I be afraid of so-called pressure? If it is a fair basis for negotiation, again, as President Carter said, fairness cannot be turned into unfairness, flexibility into rigidity or into what is called intransigence. A long step forwards cannot become a short step backwards. It is all said in public. So, therefore, President Sadat will be in Washington. He will talk to President Carter. We shall see the results. I think the president of the United States will be kind enough, also, to inform me of the results of the talks, as he did after Aswan. He phoned me after Aswan from Air Force One and gave me a certain outline of his talks with President Sadat and I hope also next time I will be informed by the president of the United States about his talks with President Sadat.
Last question. It's a nasty one, but anyway it's not unfriendly from myself. Do you consider yourself as the man of the situation for the great people of Israel?
My friend, I am a simple man. What can I do that I was elected? You know, the 17th of May, the day I was elected, was a day of surprise to everybody, and since then I am going around apologizing for the surprise. "Please, forgive me the surprise." I was elected. I was called upon by the people to conduct its affairs. Since then, for the seventh month, I made this office. I formed the government in its natural way because I served for 26 years in parliament in opposition, for three years in government. I know almost every cog in the state machine. So it was completely natural for me to form a government. Here sits a friend of mine who worked with my predecessor, prime minister, former prime minister Rabin. And even bear me out. Now we work together, and he also assumes that we work for a long time together. And so other colleagues. The atmosphere is a work of devotion. We have to do the job we were called upon. But I wouldn't say all those
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