Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, breaking a six-year silence, Sunday praised Israel’s decade of peace with Egypt but bemoaned their still icy relations.
Commenting on political issues at length for the first time since becoming a recluse in 1983, Begin told Israel Radio that the 1979 U.S.-brokered Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty remains the only basis for a Middle East settlement.
The 75-year-old Begin took issue with Washington’s latest peace move, opening a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization that broke a 13-year U.S. boycott of Yasser Arafat’s organization.
“This is in my opinion a negative, harmful phenomenon,” he said in his characteristically hoarse voice. “The Americans, our friends, are in essence asked to reconsider this matter.
“Until now, we have achieved something very important--a peace treaty with Egypt, the largest Arab state. . . . It is impossible to talk about celebrations so long as there is no absolute normalization,” Begin said.
“We want a full peace, normalization in all fields,” he said in an interview marking the 10th anniversary of the treaty-signing in Washington.
Begin said he still opposes formation of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as “a danger to Israel and the entire Middle East.”
He complained that Palestinians persist in clashing with Israeli soldiers in the occupied lands and sending guerrillas to raid northern Israel.
“If this isn’t terror, it is difficult to know what terror is,” he said, referring to Arafat’s renunciation of terror and recognition of Israel’s right to exist that led to the Americans opening up a dialogue with PLO.
Begin has lived in virtual seclusion in Jerusalem, leaving his apartment only eight times since his resignation in 1983 after reportedly becoming depressed over the death of his wife Aliza and Israel’s losses in the 1982 Lebanon war.
The once-fiery orator, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for the 1978 Camp David accords that led to the treaty, sounded weak. But he spoke clearly and showed a familiarity with recent political developments.