When the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin, meets President Sadat of Egypt next Sunday?
When the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin, meets President Sadat of Egypt next Sunday (December 25) in Ismailia, he will take with him proposals for a territorial settlement. Mr. Begin has described them as "a fair basis for discussion" rather than Israel's final word. He has outlined them to President Carter in Washington and given some indications of what they contain, though the details have not yet been made public.
SYNOPSIS: The Sinai desert is the largest tract of territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. She may offer to give up most of it if she gets certain security guarantees. Egypt will insist that the Israelis withdraw altogether.
The dispute may come over Sharm el Sheikh, at the southern tip, where Israel has always insisted on maintaining a military presence to protect her access to the Gulf of Aqaba. The former Prime Minister, Mr. Yitzhak Rabin was explicit about it.
The West Bank of the River Jordan -- highly cultivated and well populated -- is a more complex problem. Mr. Begin appeared to make a substantial concession when he spoke in a television interview in the United States of the Palestinians having self-rule in this area. Arabs have played a full part in municipal elections there since Israel occupied the West Bank. But something more now seems to be envisaged, with Israel abandoning the claim, which Mr. Begin himself has voiced, to legal sovereignty over the territory.
Israel would want, it appears, to keep military posts along the Jordan river for security reasons. President Sadat has said Israel should withdraw all her troops from the territory. Israel has established more than 50 new settlements in the West Bank area since the occupation, and Mr. Begin wants Jews to have the right to continue to settle there. He says Arabs from the West Bank would also have the right to settle in Israel.
More than 400,000 people live in the Gaza strip, and most of them are Palestinians. Many still live in refugee camps, and work in Israel, as there is little industry in the strip. Anything approaching a Palestinian homeland, under whatever legal auspices, would have to make provision for these people.
In many ways the future of Jerusalem is the most difficult problem of all. Any settlement there must touch deep religious feelings.
The old city was administered as part of Jordan until 1967, and its population is mainly Arab. But in those days Jews were denied access to the Temple and its Wailing Wall. Successive Israeli governments have said they will never give up East Jerusalem. To the Arabs, it is occupied territory, from which Israel should withdraw under United Nations instructions. Mr. Begin has so far gone no further than to suggest self-rule for the holy places under their own religious authorities.