Israel's political parties have gone into long private sessions to discuss Prime Minister Menachem Begin's recommendation to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Sinai.
Israel's political parties have gone into long private sessions to discuss Prime Minister Menachem Begin's recommendation to withdraw Jewish settlers from the Sinai. Mr. Begin opened a Knesset (Parliament) debate on the issue on Monday (September 25) and declared that Israel must accept the Sinai withdrawal or lose all hope of peace. The recommendation is the result of the Camp David summit held in the United States earlier this month, when Mr. Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed peace accords. On Sunday, (24 September), the Israeli Cabinet voted to approve the accords and to seek Knesset acceptance for them even though some members attacked the proposal to scrap the settlements as "heresy" against the central tenets of Zionism.
SYNOPSIS: The Israeli-occupied Sinai peninsula, traditionally the home of the nomadic Bedouins, is the area Egypt demands must be cleared of Jewish settlements. But the pioneers are reluctant to leave.
This settlement at Yamit is one of around 80 settlements that have been established in the occupied territories as a whole - the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Sinai and the Gaza Strip - since 1967. According to official figures they have a total population of barely 7,000 Jews. Until recently Mr. Begin had declared such settlements were indispensable to Israeli security, and had even booked a retirement bungalow for himself in one of the more distant settlements.
Mr. Begin's historic change of attitude has shocked many of the settlers and hundreds of them converged on central Jerusalem to protest. The shouted loudly outside the Knesset and Mr. Begin's home, claiming that villages such as this, built with so much hard labour in the desert - should not now be abandoned. And in the settlements, the work of expanding buildings and bringing more land into production continues, in defiance of the threat hanging over the pioneers' future. But despite their opposition, Mr. Begin has said the settlements must go - or the peace iniative will be lost.