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The Peace Process: Autonomy Plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip

(December 28, 1977)

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a speech to the Knesset outlined his ideas for the future of the Palestinians in the disputed territories.  Excerpts:

... With the establishment of peace we shall propose the introduction of an administrative autonomy for the Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip on the basis of the following principles:

The administration of the military rule in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip will be abolished. In Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip an administrative autonomy of, by and for the Arab residents will be established. The residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip will elect an administrative council which will be composed of 11 members. The administrative council will act according to the principles postulated in this document. Every resident 18 years old or older, regardless of his citizenship or the lack of it. will be entitled to vote for the administrative council. Every resident who is 25 years old or older the day the list of candidates for the administrative council is presented will be entitled to be elected to the administrative council. The administrative council will be elected in general, direct, personal, equal and secret elections.

The administrative council will establish the following departments: department of education: department of transportation: department of construction and housing: department of industry, commerce and tourism: department of agriculture: department of health: department of labor and social betterment, department for the rehabilitation of refugees: department of legal administration and supervision of the local police force. The administrative council will issue regulations pertaining to the activities of those departments.

Security and public order in the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be entrusted to the Israeli authorities....

Residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. regardless of their citizenship or lack of it. will have the free option to receive either Israeli or Jordanian citizenship.... A committee of representatives of Israel, Jordan and the administrative council will be established to examine the law in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district and to determine which laws will remain valid. which will be abolished and what the authority of the administrative council will be to issue regulations. The decisions of this committee will be adopted unanimously.

Israeli residents will be entitled to purchase land and settle in the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Arab residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district who become, in accordance with the free option granted them, Israeli citizens will be entitled to purchase land and settle in Israel. A committee of representatives of Israel, Jordan and of the administrative council will be established to determine immigration rules for the areas of Judea. Samaria and Gaza. The committee will postulate those rules which will permit Palestinian refugees outside Judea. Samaria and Gaza immigration in a reasonable volume into these areas. The decision of the committee will be adopted unanimously.

Israeli residents and the residents of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza district will be assured free movement and free economic activity in Israel, in Judea, in Samaria and in the Gaza district.

The administrative council will name one of its members to represent it before the Government of Israel for the purpose of discussing common issues. and one of its members will represent it before the Government of Jordan for the discussion of common issues. Israel insists on its rights and demand for its sovereignty over Judea. Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Knowing that other demands exist, it proposes. for the sake of the agreement and of peace, to leave the question of sovereignty in those areas open.

Regarding the administration of the places holy to the three religions in Jerusalem. a special proposal will be prepared and presented, insuring free admission for all believers to the places sacred to them.

These principles will lend themselves to reexamination after a period of five years...

We do not even dream of the possibility---if we are given the chalice to withdraw our military forces from Judea, Samaria and Gaza--of abandoning those areas to the control of the murderous organization that is called the PLO. . . . This is history's meanest murder organization. except for the armed Nazi organizations. It also bragged two days ago about the minder of Hamdi al-Qadi. deputy director of the Education Bureau in Ramallah.

It is a frightening proposition that someone's solution to the problems in the Middle East might he a single bullet dispatched to the heart of Egyptian President as-Sadat as the PLO's predecessors did at Al-Aqsa Mosque to King Abdallah. One single bullet. No wonder that the Egyptian Government has declared that should such a single shot be fired, Egypt would retaliate with a million shots. We wish to say that under no condition will that organization be allowed to take control over Judea, Samaria and Gaza. If we withdraw our army, this is exactly what would happen. Hence, let it be known that whoever desires an agreement with us should please accept our announcement that the IDF will be deployed in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. And there will also be other security arrangements, so that we can give to all the residents, Jews and Arabs alike, in Eretz Yisrael a secure life that is to say, security for all....

... We have a right and a demand for sovereignty over these areas of Eretz Yisrael. This is our land and it belongs to the Jewish nation rightfully. We desire an agreement and peace. We know that there are at least two other demands for sovereignty over these areas. If there is a mutual desire to reach an agreement and to promote peace-what is the way?

Should these contradictory demands remain, and should there be no answer to the collision course between them, an agreement between the parties would be impossible. And for this reason, in order to facilitate an agreement and make peace, there is only one possible way. One way and no other: to agree to decide that the question of sovereignty remain open and to deal with people, with nations. That is to say, administrative autonomy for the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael; and for the Jews of Eretz Yisrael-genuine security. This is the fairness that is inherent in the content of the proposal. And in that spirit the proposal was also accepted abroad....

Source: Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin, ed, The Israel-Arab Reader, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2001).