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New Optimism in Israel Following Cairo-moscow Crisis

A newly optimistic assessment of Settlement prospects was detectable this weekend in political circles here as preparations went ahead for Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s return to Washington for a meeting with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger Jan. 9. Well placed observers tended to share the American view that last week’s sudden revelation of disputes between Egypt and the Soviet Union — which they regard as the basic reason for the postponement of Communist Party Secretary Leonid L. Brezhnev’s visit to Cairo–will have the effect of softening Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s attitude and demands in a second-stage negotiation.

One high source predicted that negotiations could now get underway within a month. He felt that Allon’s visit to Washington, during which Kissinger would discuss with him the significance of the Cairo-Kremlin turn of events — would be followed by some weeks of further diplomatic pulse-taking by the Secretary — after which Kissinger might come to the Mideast for a round of shuttle diplomacy.

NARROWING OF NEGOTIATING GAP

According to this hopeful scenario–the high source readily admitted that only 10 days ago he had been far less optimistic–Kissinger will succeed in the ongoing diplomatic contacts with Washington and Jerusalem in substantially narrowing the negotiating gap, so that a “final push” under his direct, shuttling auspices between the capitals will achieve the needed breakthrough.

Reports from Washington, following a meeting yesterday between Israeli Ambassador Sincha Dinitz and Kissinger, said that the Secretary was now pressing for more precise Israeli proposals than the “30-50 kilometer pullback” vaguely outlined by Allon on his Washington trip last month. Observers here predict certain persuasion, if not pressure (the taboo word) from Kissinger upon Israel to produce more generous offers so as to “compensate and encourage” Sadat in his firm stand against the Soviets.

The two main issues will probably be the Abu Rodeis oil fields and the Mitla Pass, with Egypt demanding both of them and Kissinger hinting that Israel might forego at least one. The oilfield question would seem to hinge on possible fuel-supply arrangements for Israel by the U.S. — as foreshadowed in last June’s Nixon-Rabin communique, which spoke of “consultations” on this question. A high source here refused to say if such consultations had been held between Washington and Jerusalem.

SADAT, TOO, WILL BE PRODDED

But the observers feel that Kissinger will equally be prodding Sadat towards the “political concessions,” especially in terms of the duration of the settlement, which Israel is demanding. They feel, moreover, that Sadat’s bargaining position is substantially weakened following his obvious disagreement with the Soviets, and that therefore the Egyptian leader will be more amenable to the Israeli suggestions.

The threat of Egypt’s return to Soviet client status, which had hung over the prospects of a settlement in recent weeks, is now seen to be lifted, at least for the immediate future. Although Brezhnev’s state of health is not yet clearly known in the West, the assessment were needed it was not illness alone that lead to the strange and sudden postponement of the visit.

Sadat himself in his address last Thursday night to Egyptian intellectuals, clearly indicated that all was not well in Egypt’s relations with the Kremlin. Observers here have welcomed Sadat’s speech as an important statement of Egypt’s readiness to proceed with Kissinger’s stage-by-stage process and to effectively defer reconvening the Geneva conference until an energetic effort to achieve a second stage settlement has been made.

NATURE OF MOSCOW-CAIRO CRISIS

The crisis with the Kremlin, it is believed here, resulted from Sadat’s refusal to allow the return of Soviet military advisers to Egypt as Brezhnev reportedly demanded. Sadat was also reluctant to restore to the Russians their extraterritorial base-rights on Egypt’s Mediterranean seaboard. Sadat has never been favored by the Soviets — and he knows this and is loath to leave himself dependent upon their favor, observers here say.

They add that the Vladivostok summit revealed total disagreement between the Big Two on the Mideast, and that following the summit the Soviets decided to try and thwart — through Egypt –Kissinger’s continued diplomatic successes in the area. These observers believe that Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal and the Shah of Iran were active and effective in persuading Sadat not to fall once again into the Soviet bearhug.

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