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Another Begin Autonomy Plan

By Yisrael Medad
5/25/2014, 12:05 AM

Menachem Begin presented to US President Carter a plan for administrative autonomy for Judea, Samaria and Gaza.  It has been described as an attempt to balance his Revisionist Zionist ideology and the reality of the factors influencing the region.  As Begin told Carter (p. 11), and not for the first time, his autonomy proposal was to be for the "Arab inhabitants", not territorial.

One of the elements stressed is that Jerusalem was not to be included in the main Framework text but was mentioned in the Annex in an exchange of letters.  That of Begin reads so:

The President
Camp David
Thurmont, Maryland

17 September 1978

Dear Mr. President:

I have the honor to inform you, Mr. President, that on 28 June 1967 - Israel's parliament (The Knesset) promulgated and adopted a law to the effect: "the Government is empowered by a decree to apply the law, the jurisdiction and administration of the State to any part of Eretz Israel (Land of Israel - Palestine), as stated in that decree."

On the basis of this law, the government of Israel decreed in July 1967 that Jerusalem is one city indivisible, the capital of the State of Israel.

Sincerely,
Menachem Begin

The newly-published collection of official documents from the Carter period 1977-1979, page 875, has an interesting element from the discussion that took place on December 17, 1977 in Washington.  A proposal of autonomy for the religious holy shrines in Jerusalem.

Unprompted, Begin announces to Carter that Moshe Dayan, the Foreign Minister, who was not present, had two ideas about a committee to review all aspects of legislation and the other was related to Arab refugees in Lebanon who might want to return (Begin supposes the rest will not). And then he presents one of his own: international religious councils to care for the holy shrines.  He considered it an "ecumneical idea", that the "care" for these shrines be in the hands of a committee that "would have full autonomy and could gurantee free access to those shrines".

As one can read, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance jumps on the idea, and presses Begin:

As far as I can tell, there was no real full development of this idea although one can an idea of Begin's thinking from this document from March 12, 1979:-

Knowing Begin's approach, he certainly did not intedn to yield up Israel's sovereignty and yet, intentions aside, he also did not permit any Jewish overt practical identification with the Temple Mount, such as prayer, and therefore if not weakened, surely did not strengthen Jewish links with out most sacred location that would convince a US President, for example, of our seriousness about Jerusalem.

Perhaps that incident was a lost opportunity, for all concerned.

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