The Israeli foreign minister describes the Middle East future his government would like to see in the aftermath of the Lebanese conflict and spells out its position on how the Camp David peace process can be restored. Mr. Shamir addresses issues that were discussed in this space on Sunday by Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who would be Israel's principal negotiating partner in any revived negotiation.
In the first days of April 1982, just a few weeks before Israel's total evacuation of the Sinai peninsula, a representative of Egypt spoke before a conference of "non-aligned" nations at Kuwait. In his speech, Ambassador Abd El-Meguid said, among other things, that "for the first time in modern history, Israel is in the ebb and its forces are withdrawing, while an Arab country, which is Egypt, is regaining sovereignty over its own national soil."
Dr. Abd El-Meguid's statement was made at a time of rising tension over a number of Egyptian actions that Israel considered as contradictory to Egypt's undertakings in the peace treaty. The particular sentence quoted above provoked special ire because it conveyed the message that a weakened Israel had signed the peace treaty and could be weakened further by the other Arab states if they were to follow Egypt's example.
Fortunately, the matter was cleared up in frank and open discussion with the Egyptian leaders, who denied any negative intention in Dr. Abd El-Meguid's statement. On April 25, Israel evacuated its military bases in eastern Sinai, dismantled villages and townships and withdrew its forces right up to the international boundary. The government and people of Israel were united in the hope that for the sake of peace, the sacrifice and risk would prove to be justified.
The concern that the Egyptian ambassador's statement caused in Israel was not due so much to the words themselves as to the echo it evoked of theories propounded since the early '60s by a school of thought that existed in Tunisia and in Egypt itself. According to this theory, since the Arab world had failed repeatedly in overcoming Israel militarily, it should change tactics and adopt a political approach toward achieving the same goal. In return for a piece of paper and some peaceful declaration, Israel would be pressed to withdraw to the indefensible armistice lines of 1949 and even beyond them, and to agree to the influx of a large number of Palestinian refugees.
These goals were to be addressed stage after stage, and their achievement was to be secured by a combination of international pressure and political maneuvering. At the end of the process, Israel would have been reduced to a vulnerable mini-entity. Its condition would signal the end of the Zionist dream. The coup de gr.ace would be delivered by a Palestinian Arab entity that would absorb the Jewish community and "reunite" Palestine into an Arab state.
It is to the credit of the late President Anwar Sadat that he grasped the hand Israel had stretched out to its neighbors ever since its declaration of independence, and subsequently concluded with it a peace treaty as between equals. Egypt recognized Israel's existence as a permanent entity alongside the other states in the region, and it joined with the United States and Israel in devising a blueprint for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israel problem, implementing fully the provisions of the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242. President Hosni Mubarak is equally committed to the same goal under the same program, and together Israel and Egypt have offered the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District a role in determining their future in peace and dignity.
In spite of some dislocation caused by the succession of Arab wars on Israel in the past, the great majority of Palestinian Arabs continue to reside in Palestine proper, on both sides of the Jordan River. The Kingdom of Jordan today was the East Bank of Palestine in the past. The majority of the population in the kingdom originate in the West Bank of Palestine, but they are nationals and permanent residents of Jordan. Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have declared many times that Jordan is Palestine and that Jordanians and Palestinians are one people. The problem, therefore, is not one of granting self- determination to the Palestinian Arabs, because they have already exercised it in Eastern Palestine. We are not dealing with a homeless people that need a homeland of their own. The only political problem that is still in need of a solution is that of the 1.3 million Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District. As for its relations with the Kingdom of Jordan, Israel is ready to conclude immediately a peace treaty with King Hussein.
Hence, to say that the "Palestine problem" is the root cause of the Arab-Israel conflict is, at best, to betray ignorance of the facts and of history. In Arab parlance, the "Palestine problem" is code language for saying that the existence of Israel is the core issue which can be redressed, at the very minimum, by the establishment of a second Palestinian Arab state on the original territory of Palestine. This issue was the subject of long debates at Camp David.
The Camp David agreements did not fully satisfy any of the participants. They were a result of compromise, especially painful to Israel because of the tangible sacrifices and risks they entailed. The Egyptian delegation argued the case for self-determination for the Palestinian Arabs and the establishment of an Arab state in Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza. Israel rejected the idea and argued that an Arab state in those territories was totally unjustified and would constitute a mortal danger to it. Finally, Israel's proposal for autonomy was adopted for a transition period of five years. This turned out to be the only workable and viable plan on which the three partners to the Camp David Accords were agreed.
It was justly hailed only recently by Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who said that "Camp David actually goes beyond Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1972), which call for agreement among states,,by affording the indigenous populations of the West Bank and Gaza the opportunity to participate in the negotiations towards a settlement."
In effect, the Camp David Accords constitute a detailed blueprint for the implementation of the two Security Council resolutions, not only with reference to the issues between Israel and each of its Arab neighbors, but also with regard to the Palestinian Arab population. These accords represent a first major breakthrough to peace, and on no account should they be undermined, bypassed or belittled. They should be given every chance to succeed, and Israel, on its part, will remain committed to them as the only agreed and viable path.
Operation "Peace for Galilee" should be seen and judged on the background of the above. It is ridiculous to suggest that Israel chose to invade a neighboring Arab state and thus sought to undermine the Camp David Accords, or that it coveted Arab land. The very opposite is the truth. Israel has every reason to preserve and protect the Camp David Accords until they are fully implemented.
Better still, the conduct of the Lebanese people, who welcomed Israel's army, and the free election of a president by the Lebanese Parliament bear clear testimony to the fact that Israel is not regarded as an invader or an enemy of Lebanon. The Lebanese people -- Christian, Moslem and Druze -- regarded Israel's action as an opportunity to free themselves of the nightmare of the PLO-terrorist and Syrian rape, massacre and devastation of the Lebanese people and land. How else can one explain the fact that more than a quarter of a million Lebanese fled into the areas held by the Israeli army, rather than flee from an invading enemy?
Israel's action against the PLO terrorists in Lebanon came after 14 years of provocation and attacks on Israel's population. The situation became intolerable when the PLO deployed Soviet long-range artillery and rockets that paralyzed the entire civilian population of northern Israel. Neither our warnings nor our limited military actions, nor the efforts of Ambassador Philip Habib proved effective in putting a haare olt to the terrorist attacks. When we finally acted, we discovered it was none too soon. The PLO terrorist leaders, financed by the Arab oil producers and generously armed by the Soviet bloc, had established their own pirate state in Lebanon and amassed immense quantities of arms. As they were driven back by Israel's forces, they regrouped in densely populated areas and shelled the Israeli units from behind the shield of civilians.
Israel did everything in its power to prevent civilian casualties, even at the price of exposing its soldiers to danger. Israel knows from bitter experience that even one innocent casualty is one too many. However, it was left with no alternative but to drive the terrorists out of Beirut and Lebanon and to dismantle the infrastructure they had created there against Israel and in the service of international terrorism. Israel sincerely hopes this objective will be realized shortly, following which the Syrian army will withdraw from Lebanon. Israel will not stay one day longer than is necessary to secure this goal. There is no doubt that a free, independent Lebanon will choose to live in peace with Israel.
The events of this year have demonstrated a reality that is totally different from that which some Arab theorists called for in a stage-by-stage political plan leading to the submission of Israel. In return for peace and coexistence, Israel undertook far-reaching concessions and risks. This was the case with Egypt. In response to harassment and terror aimed at sabotaging peace, as was the case with the PLO in Lebanon, Israel reacted firmly by mounting Operation "Peace for Galilee."
Israel is convinced that the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon will have a positive effect on the Camp David process. The PLO and peace are mutually exclusive. Once the terrorist menace and threats to the Palestinian Arab population are removed, or at least significantly reduced, the chances of resuming the talks for establishing autonomy will be enhanced. For too long have the Palestinian Arabs paid the price of extremist leaders who preached rejection of any accommodation with Israel and led them down the path of suffering and destruction. The Arab governments that supported the PLO must realize that Israel has the same right to existence and security as they have. The Middle East is sorely in need of stability, and this can be achieved by their joining the Camp David process and banning the PLO.
Now is the time to resume the autonomy negotiations and bring them to a quick and positive conclusion. Immediately thereafter, free and democratic elections will be held toward the establishment of an administrative council. The council will represent the Palestinian Arabs in negotiations with Israel on the final status of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District, which will enter into effect at the end of the five-year transition period. It is in those negotiations that every partner in the process, including the representatives of the Palestinian Arabs, can present his proposals on the final status. At the present time, such proposals are out of place and will cause unnecessary delay. Any proposal to associate the PLO, or even supporters of the PLO ideology, with this process, will destroy the chances of agreement.
The right of Jews to reside in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and set up villages (settlements) and townships there was discussed at length in Camp David. Israel argued that it is inconceivable that Jews will be denied the right to live in Hebron, Bethlehem and Beth- El, as Arabs continue to reside in Haifa and Jaffa. In spite of the differences, agreement was reached and the establishment of settlements was not ruled out in the final accords. Israel maintains it would not be useful to raise this issue again.
The United States was and remains a major partner to the Camp David process. Without the constructive American contribution, the Camp David Accords would have been difficult, if not impossible. Israel and the United States share many values, int oerests and objectives. Our common goal in the Middle East can be condensed in one short phrase: peace with security for all in this region.