JERUSALEM (Aug. 25)
The “Kissinger Shuttle” appeared more certain than ever of suc- cess today as Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger took off for Alexandria after spending two nights and a day here in Israel. A major break-through which Kissinger made known to the Israel negotiating team only last night seems to have cleared a major obstacle on the path to full agreement on the territorial aspects of the accord. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Kissinger told the Israelis, was no longer pushing for an Egyptian advance beyond the present buffer zone into land presently held by Israel.
The Israeli ministers had explained during the shuttle’s first round that this was an especially sensitive Issue for them, since it was linked to the “principle of Sinai demilitarization.” They explained that in an eventual final accord they would hope that the large bulk of the peninsula would be demilitarized. If Egypt were to advance beyond the present United Nations Emergency Force lines, this, they contended, would prejudice the principle of future demilitarization.
This Egyptian softening, in addition to Sadat’s agreement to Israeli manning of the Umm Hasheiba warning stations, gave grounds for hope here that the shuttle was steadily moving to its successful conclusion.
CONSTERNATION AND EXPLANATION
However, reports by reporters from Alexandria today that a “senior U.S. official” expected Egypt to ‘advance beyond the UN buffer zone into Israeli-held land under the new agreement caused some consternation here in Jerusalem. Sources here had said that Sadat had foregone his demand to advance beyond “Line Beta”–the eastern side of the present buffer.
But officials soon regained their composure and explained that what the “senior U.S. official” apparently had in mind was a 1,5 kilometer advance across a 4-kilometer stretch at the top of the Gulf of Suez coastal strip. Technically this would mean Egyptian entry into the present UNEF buffer. But Israeli officials stressed that the overall principle that the buffer remain demilitarized and under UNEF remains in force in the vital areas from the Mediterranean all the way down to south of the Mitle Pass.
Sadat had earlier demanded significant advances by his troops at several crucial points along this line. But Israel had consistently rejected this demand, the officials here explained, and this rejection was still valid and had been apparently accepted by Egypt. The only exception will be, according to these officials, at the top of the coastal strip, south of Suez City, where the Egyptians apparently insist on a broader area for access of traffic to and from the city to the Abu Rodeis oilfields.
TWO POINTS STILL OUTSTANDING
Still outstanding between Israel and Egypt are two points of substance; one is the U.S. presence–although here, too, there has been some shift detectable in the Egyptian stand. While earlier, Sadat rejected outright the Israeli proposal for six surveillance stations manned by American technicians (in addition to Umm Hasheiba and a parallel Egyptian station at which there would be American supervisory presence), now he has indicated that he is prepared to consider the proposal. Observers here believed the result might be a compromise, with Israel reducing its proposal to four U.S.-manned stations.
The other point at issue is a narrow strip of land in the Gidi Pass region which Israel seeks to retain. Egypt demands that Israel withdraw from it. A Cabinet source said yesterday the area involved is only 300-400 yards in length.
The negotiators will now switch from large-scale maps to more precise maps in order to plot the detailed lines. Assuming that Kissinger can find agreement on the two outstanding territorial points, the burden of the talks will then shift to some “political” elements still left unresolved.
These include the Egyptian pledge to moderate economic and diplomatic sanctions against Israel. The terms of this pledge–which is to be incorporated in the “secret” U.S.-Israel agreement–have not yet been formulated. Israel is pressing for a commitment which would cover not only American firms trading with Israel, but also Japanese and European companies.
QUESTION OF ‘DIPLOMATIC WARFARE’
On the “diplomatic warfare” question, Israel has demanded a pledge from Egypt to abstain from any initiative aimed at isolating Israel internationally or evicting her from international organizations. Egypt must desist, too, from encouraging third parties to sever ties with Israel.
Kissinger flew to Egypt today bearing with him draft Israeli documents relating to these issues, and Egypt’s reaction to them was awaited here with interest, Officials here said that Kissinger might well return this evening and do the round trip once again Tuesday-Wednesday. The Israeli Cabinet has scheduled a special session for Wednesday at which, it is hoped, the final decision to approve the draft agreement will be able to be taken.
SINAI PACT NOT LINKED TO GOLAN
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, during which the negotiating team was unaware of Egypt’s softening over the line of advance, several ministers spoke with concern of the. “U.S. senior official’s” references to possible future Israeli-Syrian negotiations on the Golan Heights. Their main concern was to avoid any hint of “linkage” between the current agreement with Egypt and any future talks with Syria. Israel’s firm policy has been throughout the talks that the Egyptian accord must “stand on its own feet.”
Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres have indicated recently that they would agree to interim Golan talks–on condition that no large-scale pullback were envisaged and no removal of Golan settlements contemplated. In the “secret” U.S.-Israel accord the U.S. pledges not to press Israel for a major Golan interim pullback. Ministers stressed yesterday that the Cabinet itself had never discussed the prospect of a future Golan negotiation and complained of Kissinger apparently connecting the two issues.
Observers deduced that Kissinger, after meeting with Syrian President Hafez Assad, was thinking in terms of an eventual Golan interim negotiation, though he would probably not broach the issue formally on his present shuttle trip. If all goes well, Kissinger could leave the Middle East next week having secured agreement in principle and with military details to be worked out by Israeli and Egyptian officers in Geneva. Israel would insist that signing be deferred until the U.S. Congress had approved the U.S. presence in the passes and any other part of the agreement for which Congressional approval was necessary.