Begin on Israeli Settlements
(June 11, 1979)
Following the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the government intensified its policy of establishing new Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district. While the plans were approved by the Ministerial Committee on Settlements headed by Agriculture Minister Sharon, implementation was by various settlement bodies and private individuals, with the advice of the Settlement Department of the World Zionist Organization. Soon, a wide-ranging debate started in Israel on the pace of settlement and the location of the new sites. In view of the growing debate, which included criticism of the government and of Mr. Begin, the Prime Minister issued the following statement:
During the last few days a campaign of incitement conducted by certain circles has been launched against the Government of Israel and against me personally. Only a few months ago these same circles pronounced words of praise for Israeli actions that led to the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, for our love of peace and our desire to achieve peace with all our neighbours, who to this day, however, refuse to join the peacemaking process.
These circles, in referring to Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district, do not shrink from employment the term "provocation". This is perhaps the most distasteful element in the whole incitement campaign. One recalls times when it was asserted that the presence of Jews was of itself a provocation; and if now there are Israelis of certain outlooks who accept the assumption that the presence of Jews alongside of Arabs in our historic homeland, Eretz Israel, is a provocation - then shame on them. By so doing they follow the evil path of the enemies of the Jewish people.
Distortions, too, the product of cynicism or ignorance, are published about our settlement in our land. The New York Times, for example, alleges that I promised someone that we would never carry out settlement work in areas of Eretz Israel "seized" - so the paper writes - "from the Arabs". There is absolutely no foundation to this allegation. At Camp David I promised President Carter that during the three months of negotiations with Egypt about the peace treaty we would abstain from establishing settlements. The three months ended on December 17, 1978. During those months a debate arose between us and the Americans on this matter. That debate was laid to rest a few weeks ago when the Secretary of State, Mr. Cyrus Vance, affirmed before a Congressional Committee that the obligation to which I had committed myself consisted of this and nothing more - three months only.
Ever since my first visit to President Carter on July 22, 1977, I have stated and reiterated that we have an absolute right to settle in all parts of Eretz Israel, as this is our land, parts of which, in the east and in the south, were conquered in 1948, by aggression and invasion, by Jordan and Egypt. Under no circumstances did I ever agree with the thesis, whatever its origin may be, alleging. that our settlements are illegal or that they are an obstacle to peace.
There are circles abroad which rely on minority votes in the Knesset, or on the official Opposition, or on a demonstration by groups of Israeli citizens, or on an article by an opposition member defeated in democratic elections, in order to justify their criticism of the Government of Israel and of me personally. One cannot but express wonder at this approach, which is clearly anti-democratic. In a democracy, not a minority but the majority decides, and foreign countries conduct relations with the legitimately elected government, not with groups of demonstrators or authors of opposition articles.
Since forming the present Government we have not misled anybody, on every occasion, and particularly during the twelve days of the Camp David discussions, we declared and reiterated -
We have promised autonomy to the Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district. We wish to carry out this promise in accordance with every word we signed in the Camp David agreement.
The true meaning of the Camp David agreement is this: Autonomy for the Arab inhabitants of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district, Jews and Arabs living together in Eretz Israel, and security for Israel and all its citizens.
Therefore, we shall pay no attention to abuse, spoken or written, in Israel or abroad. We shall ensure, as elected representatives and spokesmen of the nation, the peace of the people of Israel in the Land of Israel.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry