Bluntly and unequivocally, Prime Minister Menachem Begin has formally put President Anwar Sadat on notice that it is Israel's position that all of Jerusalem is going to remain under Israeli sovereignty forever, and that Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank will never be removed.
Begin's rebuff to the Egyptian president was contained in a 14-page letter responding to Sadat's decision last week to suspend the negotiations on Palestinian autonomy. Sadat broke off the talks because of the adoption in Israel's parliament of a law perpetuating Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, including the predominantly Arab eastern sector captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Begin's letter, written last Monday, was released today by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
[A State Department spokesman said the U.S. government had no comment to make on the Begin letter to President Sadat at the present time.]
In a manifesto that implicitly rules out any possibility of Israel agreeing to negotiate those issues, Begin urged Sadat to put aside his differences and renew Egyptian-Israeli discussions on the broader topic of proposed autonomy for the 1.2 million Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"Jerusalem is and will be one, under Israel's sovereignty, its indivisible capital in which Jews and Arabs will dwell together in peace and human dignity. Whosoever declares that the sovereign acts of our democratic parliament are null and void makes a declaration that is null and void," Begin asserted.
"The same applies to our settlements. . . . They are legal and legitimate and they are an integral part of our national security. None of them will ever be removed," the prime minister added.
Coming at a time when relations between the two countries are strained more than they have been at any time since the 1978 Camp David peace accords, the letter appeared to foreclose any likelihood of an early resumption of the autonomy talks.
While the letter broke no new ground on Begin's positions on Jerusalem or West Bank settlements, it dispelled rumors that the Israeli premier had embarked on a conciliatory tack and had informed Sadat that Jerusalem was negotiable in principle. There had been widespread reports in the Israeli and foreign press -- never officially discouraged by the government -- that Begin had offered Sadat a face-saving gesture by suggesting that the Jerusalem issue could be a topic of discussion.
In contrast to those reports, Begin's message was sharply critical of Sadat and the Egyptian government for injecting into the autonomy process issues that are not explicitly contained in the Camp David accords.
Moreover, Begin chastised Egypt for attempting to influence African countries not to renew their diplomatic ties to Israel, accused its official newspapers of engaging in anti-Semitic propaganda and accused the Egyptian minister of state for foreign affairs, Butros Ghali, of "incomprehensible deviations" from fthe peace treaty in his declaration before the United Nations.
Begin singled out for criticism a cartoon in the Cairo newspaper, Al Gomhouriya, depicting Adolf Hitler presenting the Israeli prime minister with a swastika-shaped medal.
"I would not refer back to this shame were it not for the fact that this 'hostile propaganda' which Egypt undertook [in the peace treaty] to abstain from conducting still goes on and on in a press which is not free of government influence," Begin wrote to Sadat.
It was the issue of Jerusalem, however, for which Begin saved his sharpest replies to Sadat. He included in his message copies of the controversial Jerusalem law and his Sept. 17, 1978, letter to President Carter stating Israel's position on the capital city.
"I have never misled you, nor anybody else. Time and time again I repeated that Jerusalem, in its entirety, is the capital of Israel, a city reunified and indivisible for all generations," Begin wrote.
Acknowledging that Jerusalem is holyto Moslems throughout the world, Begin declared, "To the Jewish people Jerusalem is not only holy, it is their history for three millennia, their heart, their dream, the visible symbol of their national redemption."
He labeled as a "contradiction of terms" the notion that East Jerusalem could be put under Arab sovereignty, saying "two sovereignties over one city means repartition impossible."