JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
The Cabinet served notice “to all concerned” after a meeting late last night that Israel would countenance no changes in the Security Council resolutions governing the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai as the price for inducing Egypt to agree to extend its mandate beyond the July 24 deadline.
It was learned from reliable sources at the same time that in its 4-1/2 hours of deliberations which ended early this morning, the Cabinet agreed on Israel’s final terms for an interim settlement with Egypt. These proposals, along with a detailed map, have already been transmitted to Washington with the request that they be conveyed to Cairo. The Israeli terms were said to envision a substantial American presence in Sinai to man and supervise advance warning systems established by both sides.
The statement on UNEF reflected the government’s mounting concern that Egypt intended to go ahead with what is regarded here as a blatant pressure tactic to wring further concessions from Israel in order to continue the UNEF presence in Sinai.
In a joint communique issued in Cairo yesterday day by President Anwar Sadat and visiting King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, the Saudian monarch formally endorsed Egypt’s position on UNEF. The fate of UNEF will depend on what action the Security Council takes when it meets later this week. But the Israeli position contained in the Cabinet statement is viewed as final and irreversible.
Despite the approaching crisis over UNEF, a mood of optimism prevailed here over the progress of negotiations for an interim accord. Many observers are predicting a successful conclusion although Jerusalem and Washington still must wait for Egypt’s response expected within a day or two.
OVERCAME ONE MAJOR HURDLE
The Cabinet’s endorsement of the terms and map submitted by Israel represented one major hurdle overcome on the road to an agreement. The Israeli message to Washington authorizing the U.S. to submit the proposals to Egypt also contained the results of the Cabinet’s vote, an indication that it was not unanimous. The Cabinet’s statement noted pointedly that the proposals included “geographical principles”, an intimation that those principles represented the furthest limits of Israeli concessions on territorial matters.
Informed sources said the proposals were hammered out by the Israeli negotiating team consisting of Premier Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Yigal Allon and Defense Minister Shimon Peres, and that their debate was not altogether harmonious. Peres reportedly pressed for a tougher position regarding both the Mitle and Gidi passes and the new Israeli defense line linking the Gidi pass, the northernmost of the passes, to the Mediterranean coast. According to the sources, Rabin was prepared to make greater concessions in the north and in the south along the shores of the Gulf of Suez than Peres thought prudent and there were heated exchanges between them in recent weeks.
VALUE OF U.S. PRESENCE OUTLINED
The final package submitted by Israel includes a significant American presence, a concession to the views of Peres. According to sources, the Defense Minister believes such a presence would make it safer for Israel to withdraw from a larger portion of the strategic passes than would be possible otherwise. Peres was said to feel that the American presence would be more dependable and less susceptible to Egyptian whims than the UN force, although Israel has no intention of dispensing with UNEF which it wants to continue to supervise the disengagement and police the buffer zone.
According to informed sources, the Israeli proposals sent to Washington envisage 4-6 American-manned surveillance stations at strategic points in the passes area which would provide intelligence information to both sides.
In addition, two surveillance facilities would be manned by Israel and Egypt respectively, Israel would retain control of the existing facility at Umm Hashiba west of the Gidi pass, which would amount to an Israeli enclave in an area from which Israeli forces would be with drawn. The Egyptians would be expected to build their own surveillance facility east of the Gidi pass. Both facilities would be “supervised” by American personnel though operated by Israelis and Egyptians respectively.
(See separate story for Washington reaction.)
Israel would retain the eastern approaches to the Sinai passes and would continue to hold the strategic Jebel Gidi, a mountain located between the passes with a commanding view of both of them. The precise delineation of the new Israeli lines north of the passes and on the Gulf of Suez was not known. It seemed clear, nevertheless, that Israel intends to rebuild some sections of the inland road to Sharm el-Sheikh paralleling but not close to the coastal road that would be ceded to Egypt.
UNDERSTANDING REACHED WITH U.S.
At last night’s Cabinet meeting, Rabin and Allon and Peres reported that a high degree of understanding had been reached in the current talks with the U.S. The concensus of the Cabinet was that the success of an interim settlement now depended entirely on Egypt’s response. The Israeli proposals are being submitted to Cairo by the U.S. Ambassador, Hermann Eilts.
During the past few weeks of tense Cabinet deliberations, Peres was the man most closely watched because his views were considered more hard-line than those of either the Premier or the Foreign Minister. Before last night’s Cabinet meeting, however, Peres told the Jerusalem Brigade convention in Jerusalem that he favored further negotiations for an interim accord to “open a door” in what was otherwise “a solid wall.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Hermann Eilts, returned to Cairo from Washington and held talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Eilts was believed to be carrying the latest Israeli proposals on an interim agreement. The proposals had been conveyed last week to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger by Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz. Sadat is expected to define Egypt’s terms for permitting the UNEF to remain in Sinai in a televised speech tomorrow.