Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin called on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat today to refrain from trying to bring America pressure to bear on Israel.
Speaking to reporters after a five-hour special Cabinet meeting, Begin said, "We are negotiating as free men, as representatives of two ancient and civilized nations because we want to establish peace, and, therefore, no appeals for pressure from outside should be issued on either side."
Begin's comments are thought to reflect increasing Israeli concern over American pressure for Israel to commit itself to allowing the occupied West Bank the right to self-determination after the five-year review period offered in Begin's autonomy plan for the area.
Informed sources said that Begin's comments were, despite appearances, directed not so much at Sadat as at reassuring a nervous Israeli public that the government is prepared to resist any U.S. pressure.
"What we suggest" for the West Bank said Begin, "is that one per cent of the great Arab people with . . . 21 sovereign Arab states will enjoy self-rule, complete autonomy, will deal with its own problems on the one hand and on the other hand the Palestinian Jews will enjoy security."
President Carter understands, Begin said, that an independent Palestinian state would be a "mortal danger to Israel" and serve as a Soviet base that would threaten the entire free world.
Both Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan have been saying adamantly in public and private that the five-year review is not intended to allow the transformation of the proposed autonomous region into anything else and that the present proposal is meant to provide a final settlement for the Palestinian problem. The five-year review provision, the Israelis insist, is simply to allow for minor revisions to the autonomy regime.
The last sentence of the text of the 26-point proposal presented to Sadat and to President Carter clearly states in reference to the entire proposal, however, "These principles will be subject to review after a five-year period." The reference to "these principles" is bound to be taken as an offer to review all the basic provisions, such as the continued presence of Israalis forces in the autonomous region.
Dayan yesterday called in U.S. Ambassador Samuel W. Lewis and West German Ambassador Klaus Schuetz and told them separately that Israel will not budge from its position on the two basic points - no self-determination and the continued presence of Israeli forces.
Getting the West Bankers to accept the plan, even with a broad wink about the real meaning of the five-year review, is not going to be an easy job. Bethlehem's Mayor Elias Freij, generally viewed as the most moderate of the West Bank mayors and the closest to Jordan's King Hussein, said yesterday that he rejects the autonomy plan.
Freij, who has been walking through a complicated political minefield with obstacles set up by Hussein, the Israelis and the Palestine Liberation Organization, also said that he fears there will be more political assassinations on the West Bank.
Today, a Beirut-based group claimed responsibility for the death yesterday in a "hunting accident" of a cousin of the aged Sheikh Mohammed Jaabari, the former mayor of Hebron, on the West Bank.
The former mayor is to the PLO a hated symbol of collaboration with the Israelis. His son headed one of the Palestinian delegations that recently went to Cairo to tell Sadat they back his peace initiative. Bajes Jaabari, 34, the man who was killed, also went to Cairo.
Israeli military authorities announced today that they have broken up five terrorist rings on the West Bank and arrested 31 suspects.