JERUSALEM (May. 16)
Israel refrained today from any official comment on the political crisis in Egypt. Most knowledgeable observers view it as the surfacing of the long anticipated “war of succession” for the mantle of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser. For the time being. Nasser’s chosen successor, President Anwar Sadat, seems to have the upper hand but Israeli observers believe the power struggle is far from settled. The crisis broke into the open Thursday when Sadat ordered the resignation of Sharaway Gomaa, a Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior. Five other Cabinet ministers, including War Minister Mohammed Fawzi submitted their resignations. In a broadcast to the Egyptian people Friday night, Sadat announced that he had foiled a coup. He said the former War Minister and other alleged plotters were under house arrest. He claimed that the block resignations from his Cabinet were an attempt to create the impression that his regime was collapsing. Three members of the eight-man ruling Higher Executive Committee of the Arab Socialist Union, Egypt’s only political party, also resigned. Sadat promptly swore in new Cabinet ministers and announced that he was ordering free elections for a complete reorganization of the Arab Socialist Union.
The Cairo upheaval followed by little more than a week Sadat’s ouster of Aly Sabry, one of Egypt’s two vice presidents. Most foreign observers believe the immediate cause of the rift was Egypt’s projected federation with Libya and Syria which was strongly opposed by Sabry. Israeli circles do not think the events in Egypt were directly related to the Israel-Egypt conflict or to the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Rogers to Cairo seeking an interim arrangement for reopening the Suez Canal. But some Israeli sources believe the Rogers peace mission may have been crippled by the Cabinet shake-up in Cairo. They maintain that a government in the midst of a crisis cannot undertake major policy decisions. Israelis note that the anti-Sadat forces include many pro-Moscow politicians, Sabry among them.