Prime Minister Manachem Begin, fresh from talks in Washington with President Carter, today rejected the notion of any "quasi-parliament" for Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Begin also said that in forthcoming talks with Egypt, Israel would make control over security in the occupied territories an absolute condition for any agreement on the thorny issue of Palestinian autonomy.
Begin's remarks among the strongest he has made to date on the autonomy issue, contrasted with Carter's optimistic post-summit analysis that Egypt and Israel were separated mainly by "differences of interpretation" on autonomy. Begin appeared to rule out Isaeli flexibilitiy on two key issues that will confront negotiators when they begin intensified talks later this month in Herzliya.
To Egyptian proposals for a Palestinian assembly, which would spawn executive and judiciary branches, Begin replied, "That means a Palestinian state all but in name, and even if people swear to us there won't be a Palestinian state, this will be the result."
Repeating his warning that a Palestinian state would evolve into a Soviet stronghold, Begin said, "Therefore, there can only be an administrative council with an appropriate number [of members], not to be turned into a quasi-parliament."
Egypt's version of West Bank-Gaza autonomy has always included a large legislative body with wide powers, but Israel has insisted on a small administrative council responsible for managing only routine public services. U.S. negotiators have pinned their hopes on finding enough flexibility on both sides to reach a compromise.
Begin appeared to dispel that notion at his airport news conference, saying, "We cannot play around with words and illlusions, and therefore there can only be an administrative council as stipulated by the Camp David agreement. On this we stand."
Moreover, if Israel does not retain the right to control "terrorism conspiracy and acts of violence and subversion" in the West Bank and Gaza, Begin said, then both the occupied territories and Israel proper "would turn into another Lebanon, but Lebanon would be . . . child's play in comparison to what would happen in our land."
If Egypt agrees to Israeli control of security, Begin said, then Israel would agree to an autonomy subcommittee to consider liaison arrangements explicitly included in the Camp David accords, including cooperation between Israel forces and a "strong local police."
"But it is an absolute condition that first our resonsibility for security as such be accepted. If not, then there won't be any consideration of the [liaison] arrangements," Begin said.
The prime minister also said there was no room for negotiations on the subject of redividing Jerusalem and that to permit the 100,000 East Jerusalem Arabs to vote in elections for the autonomous concil would be tantamount to partitioning the capital.
Begin's comments appeared to leave the autonomy negotiators little to talk about on substantive issues when they meet first in Herzliya and then in Alexandria for marathon sessions aimed at breaking the Egyptian-Israeli impasse. The prime minister seemed to anticipate those differences, when he repeatedly say May 26 was a "goal and not a deadline" for agreeing on elections of the autonomous council.
Begin would not comment on remarks by his defense minister, Ezer Weizman, that early elections should be held and that the government would collapse before its term ends next year. The prime minister said he would study Weizman's remarks over the weekend and decide whether to react.
When asked about a White House invitation to opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres to meet with Carter next week, Begin said he had been assured by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that such meetings with opposition leaders were "routine" and had no significance beyond courtesy. Some Israeli politicians interpreted the invitation as signifying U.S. awareness Begin's days in power may be numbered and that Carter already is treating Peres as the next prime minister.