Begin vs. Begin

If Benny Begin were a member of the Palestinian leadership, would he not insist on negotiations being held on the basis of an agreement that carries the signature of Menachem Begin?

As mentioned in the cabinet transcripts from the Yom Kippur War, Moshe Dayan, then defense minister in the government of Golda Meir, was one of the creators of the "concept," born during the Six-Day War that refuses to die. Dayan was an active participant in the settlements project in all the occupied territories, under the slogan "better Sharm el-Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el-Sheikh." In the euphoria typical of the man and the period, Dayan announced he was "waiting for a phone call" from the Arabs. When Egyptian President Anwar Sadat decided in 1977 to call Jerusalem, Dayan, then foreign minister in the government of Menachem Begin, sobered up and gave up his addiction to territory.

Begin had the rare opportunity, which fell into his hands, to undertake a revolution in relations with the leader of the Arab world. He shelved his public promise to join the settlement of Neot Sinai when the time would come for him to retire from politics. The former head of Etzel did not heed his comrades from the underground and gave back to Egypt all the territory that Israel had conquered in June 1967.

The preamble to the Camp David Accords, signed on September 19, 1978, states that "future negotiations between Israel and any neighbor prepared to negotiate peace and security with it are necessary for the purpose of carrying out all the provisions and principles of [UN Security Council] Resolutions 242 and 338." Begin crossed the Rubicon by setting a precedent that in return for peace, normalization and security arrangements, Israel interprets these instructions and principles into a pullout from the last centimeter of territory.

Moreover, Begin promised at Camp David, in connection with a permanent settlement of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip issue, that "the solution from the negotiations must also recognize the legitimate right of the Palestinian people and their just requirements." Begin referred to "the Arabs of the Land of Israel," which President Jimmy Carter confirmed that Begin informed him Israel considers synonymous with "Palestinians" and "Palestinian people." The leader of the "national camp" did not demand and did not receive an Egyptian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. These principles subsequently served in formulating the peace agreement with Jordan and as the basis for negotiations with Syria.

Ten years after the signing of the agreement with Egypt, the Palestinian National Council adopted the Camp David framework at the Algiers Conference. This followed an intense internal debate resulting in a painful division between Fatah and the rejectionist front. The Palestine Liberation Organization adopted resolutions 242 and 338, in addition to the demand for the implementation of the right of return. Fourteen years later, the heads of the Arab states completed the work of Sadat, Begin and Carter; at the Arab League summit they unanimously voted to support a peace initiative that offered Israel normalization in return for withdrawal to the borders of 1967 and a just and agreed resolution of the problem of the refugees in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (without making specific mention to the right of return! ).

And here we are, with the senior minister Ze'ev Binyamin Begin, a member of the Forum of Seven, among the leaders of the camp opposing what his father signed. In an article Friday in Haaretz, entitled "Rubiconians," he quotes a declaration Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made in early September, that he will not relinquish "the principle established by the Palestinian National Council in 1988 - recognition of resolutions 242 and 338, 1967 borders, Jerusalem as our capital, and the rights of the refugees in line with UN resolutions, especially 194."

If Benny Begin were a member of the Palestinian leadership, would he not insist on negotiations being held on the basis of an agreement that carries the signature of Menachem Begin? Indeed, Ehud Olmert did not reach a compromise with Abbas on the complicated issues. The lion's share of the difference lies in the fact that when Begin met with Sadat, 24,000 Jews lived in fewer than 40 settlements, while today there are some 300,000 settlers in 250 settlements and outposts. Either way, why does Begin not press the prime minister to continue the negotiations on dividing the country from the point at which they stopped?

Benny Begin is right. As he wrote in that article, the heads of the PLO have been stuck in the positions his father adopted 32 years ago. How unfortunate that he and his colleagues do not respect them and are stuck in positions that brought about the Yom Kippur disaster. "Shall the sword devour forever," Moshe Dayan asked in his book. Where is their question mark?