JERUSALEM (Dec. 15)
Shock and disappointment was the reaction at both ends of the political spectrum here today to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy’s demand that Israel suspend immigration for 50 years and return to the 1947 partition boundaries. From the hawkish Likud to the doveish Mapam, political figures expressed the view that Fahmy’s remarks, if taken at face value, foreclosed any hope that Egypt is interested in a political settlement with Israel and made negotiations for a second stage agreement with Egypt pointless at this time (See Cabinet reaction P. 3)
The government has withheld official comment, but a government spokesman told reporters this morning that Fahmy’s statement did “not merit” a serious reaction. But some sources predicted that the government would make a forceful response after today’s Cabinet meeting.
(In Washington, State Department officials said they were not surprised at Fahmy’s remarks because “99 percent was old” but expressed concern at their timing–just when Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon was returning to Jerusalem after a week of talks with U.S. government officials in Washington designed to promote a second stage of negotiations with Egypt.)
Likud leader Menachem Beigin declared that Fahmy was giving Israel “the choice between destruction and annihilation.” He said the Egyptian Foreign Minister’s words should end the dispute between Likud and the government over whether Egypt was the “moderate” among Israel’s Arab foes. Meir Talmi, secretary general of Mapam, said that if Fahmy’s statement indeed represented Egyptian policy, it clearly “closed the options.” But Talmi commended the government for delaying its reaction until it could ascertain whether Fahmy was speaking for the Sadat government.
MAY NOT REFLECT SADAT’S VIEWS
Some political observers speculated today that Fahmy may have made his remarks for the benefit of the Arab hard-liners–Syria, the PLO, Libya and Iraq–to placate them with extremist rhetoric while Egypt itself prepared to begin a new round of separate negotiations with Israel. Others noted Fahmy’s personal flamboyance, his desire for constant publicity and his hard-line policies that do not always reflect the thinking of President Anwar Sadat. They said there was some hope that the Egyptian government would find a way to retreat from Fahmy’s extremist position.
Nevertheless, it was generally noted that the Egyptian diplomat had exposed more nakedly than ever the wide gap between the Israeli and Egyptian views of a peace settlement. Israel’s basic premise in preparing to negotiate a second stage agreement with Egypt has been that a settlement must constitute substantial progress toward a final peace.
Israel has stated that a second stage accord must contain significant political concessions from Egypt in exchange for any further Israeli territorial withdrawals. Egypt’s view, seen in the context of Fahmy’s demands, makes any thought of progress through partial accords meaningless, it was said here.
The Jerusalem Post said in an editorial today that “If he (Sadat) chooses this point of time to remind us that he does not accept our existence, then there is very little purpose in withdrawing from the Mitle Pass in Sinai.” Maariv suggested that Fahmy may have aimed his statement at Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev who is due in Cairo next month with the intention of persuading the Russians to keep a lid on the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel.