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Israel Sees Ambivalence in Egypt’s Policy on West Bank

Egypt would not object if the next round of the Mideast peace talks involved Israel and Jordan rather than Israel and itself, well placed observers here believe. They add, however, that Egypt would not tolerate too long a postponement of a second round of talks between itself and Israel. The Israeli observers do not believe that Egypt has as yet clarified its position on the future talks with the U.S. and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy will be doing so in Washington shortly.

The observers commented on reports emanating from sources here in Jerusalem who feel that an Israel-Jordan negotiation is now to be considered the likeliest next step and that Foreign Minister Yigal Allon and U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in effect agreed to this likelihood without either of them fixing a definitive position on this issue of priorities or on the possible scenarios for a West Bank settlement.

Commenting on Fahmy’s statement yesterday that the West Bank should be returned to the Palestine Liberation Organization rather than to Jordan, the well placed Israeli observers said this was a further example of Egypt’s deliberate ambivalence over the West Bank-Palestinian question. (Fahmy said yesterday that the West Bank would never again fall under Jordanian civilian or military rule. He made the statement to Said Kamal, deputy chairman of the PLO’s political department.)

PLAYING BOTH SIDES OF THE STREET

The Fahmy statement certainly did not accord with last month’s Joint communique by King Hussein of Jordan and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt which recognized the Jordanian king as representative of all the Palestinians living “in Jordan”–with the implication that this included the West Bank. However, the observers here recalled, the day after the communique was issued, Fahmy qualified it by introducing a note of ambivalence as regards the question of West Bank Palestinian representation. Subsequently. Sadat declared again that the West Bank was a “deposit in Hussein’s hands.” Now Fahmy appears to be on another wave-length tending towards the PLO position.

The observers feel that Egypt is deliberately adopting this ambivalent posture, seeking on the one hand to advance politically in concert with Jordan and with U.S. support and sympathy, while intent on the other hand on not falling out with the PLO or its more radical supporters among the Arab states. Egypt’s ultimate hope is still to bring about a united Egypt-Syria-PLO position in advance of Geneva–and to somehow bring Hussein into that united front by healing the rift between him and the PLO.

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