It is fashionable nowadays to blame the late Israeli Prime-Minister Menachem Begin by saying that he opened the door to Arab autonomy in the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza through signing the Camp David agreement. While there are definitely questionable items in the agreement, the administrative autonomy for the Arabs envisioned by Begin had very little in common with what is developing today as a result of the Oslo agreement.
It is important to stress the word "administrative." There were no intentions whatsoever to surrender the lands of Yesha. On December 28, 1977 in his speech to the Israeli Parliament, presenting the autonomy plan, Begin said:
"Israel insists on its rights and demand [sic] 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. . 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 know that there are at least two other demands for sovereignty over these areas. . In order to . make peace there is only one possible way. 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."
The idea was to replace Israeli "military rule" with "administrative autonomy of, by and for the Arab residents." At the same time, "security and public order in the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza" were to be "entrusted to the Israeli authorities." Moreover, it was self-evident that "Israeli residents will be entitled to purchase land and settle in the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza." Begin suggested that Arab residents of Yesha "who become, in accordance with the free option granted them, Israeli citizens, will be able to purchase land and settle in Israel."
It is obvious that Begin's plan was absolutely different from what was desired by the architects of Oslo. His plan encouraged Jewish settlement in Yesha and did not object to Arabs moving into Israel.Like Ze'ev Jabotinsky before him, Begin was not afraid that Israel would lose its "Jewish" character through intermingling of the population. He understood that the only way to "fight" against the Arabs "demographically" was to increase Jewish emigration into Eretz Yisrael and put a bigger emphasis on Jewish values.
His approach was absolutely logical. Since it is not feasible under existing conditions to transfer Arab citizens from Israel into the Arab countries, and there is a substantial number of Arabs in Israel, any solution based on "separation" would lead only to a dismemberment of the country. Separation means unending loss of territory, as every geographical unit with Arab majority would eventually fall in the category of one that should be transferred to the "Arab part." Separation means establishing fences, physically dividing the territory, building a "ghetto" in lieu of Israel. The only difference with the middle ages would be that the ghetto is to be constructed not for the Jews but by the Jews themselves.
The architects of Oslo substituted Begin's "dealing with people" with "dealing with the land." Instead of making Israel more Jewish through vigorously promoting Judaism, and Jewish values, the proponents of Oslo found a surrogate solution in cutting off pieces of Eretz Yisrael that according to them are not "Jewish," being populated by the Arabs. While literally following the letter of the Camp David agreement, the Rabin-Peres government completely disregarded its spirit in the part that dealt with the territory of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The following phrase from the Camp David framework is repeated almost word for word in the Oslo document: "A withdrawal of Israeli armed forces will take place and there will be a redeployment of the remaining Israeli forces into specified security locations." What Israel meant by this becomes clear if one listens to Begin's explanation of the autonomy plan. "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."
However the most stunning difference between Begin's plan and Oslo is found in another of Begin's statements:
"We do not even dream of the possibility - if we are given the chance 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. . 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."
Since then, the PLO has not changed, but the Israeli government has. In his worst nightmares Begin could not have imagined that Israel would make the terrible blunder of dealing with the PLO. On May 4, 1998, former Secretary of State James Baker said in Washington, "We branded Arafat as a terrorist, we would not deal with him, that was the position of the Israeli government. But then the Israeli government itself chose Yasser Arafat as its negotiating partner and, having done so, they certainly legitimized him in my eyes and in the eyes, I think of most Americans." Alas, not only the Israeli government but the Israelis themselves accepted Arafat and the PLO as "partners." According to a survey carried out by "Dahaf" on March 25, 1998, 75% "consider it possible to continue the peace (Editor's note: Read suicide process.) process as set in the Oslo agreement."
That Begin's plan meant to keep the land of Yesha undivided is clear without a doubt. Begin agreed to autonomy under the condition that sovereignty over Yesha would remain unassigned during the five years of Arab administrative government. After that he clearly planned to declare it an undivided part of Eretz Yisrael. This can be easily derived from the Israeli Government Fundamental Policy Guidelines published on August 5, 1981, that stated:
"The autonomy agreed upon at Camp David means neither sovereignty nor self-determination. The autonomy agreements set down at Camp David are guarantees that under no conditions will a Palestinian state emerge in the territory of western Eretz Yisrael. At the end of the transition period set down in the Camp David agreement Israel will raise its claim, and act to realize its rights of sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip."
Several times during the short fifty years of Israel's history, her leaders acted solely in the interests of the Jewish state despite vehement condemnation from most of the world. Today they need to do this again. They cannot cede even an inch more of Judea, Samaria or Gaza. This is the only way to prevent the creation of a second Palestinian state. Netanyahu understands, as well as Begin did, that "under no conditions [can] a Palestinian state" be allowed to "emerge in the territory of western Eretz Yisrael." On May, 5, 1999, when the Oslo agreement expires Israel should act to realize its rights of sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. [6/20/98]
Boris Shusteff Is an engineer in upstate New York. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.