JERUSALEM (Nov. 15)
Israeli leaders are considering how to deal with Egypt’s latest “peace offensive” which they regard as insincere because it is predicated on preconditions that Israel says it will never accept. The peace talk emanating from Cairo is believed here to be intended primarily to influence the incoming Carter-Administration’s Middle East policies, still an unknown quantity in Israel and the Arab world.
Premier Yitzhak Rabin referred to Egypt’s “peace offensive” at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. His use of that term indicated that for the time being, Israel will play down Arab war threats and concentrate on warning the West to be wary of Arab professions of peaceful intentions. Jerusalem clearly does not trust the Arabs, including the Egyptians, even though President Anwar Sadat has managed to project the image of an outspoken proponent of peace with Israel.
The problem is that Sadat’s peace proposals amount to a settlement entirely on Arab terms, to be worked out at the Geneva conference with the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization and to be implemented only after Israel’s total withdrawal from the administered territories.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy joined the peace chorus in Cairo yesterday when he stated four conditions for a Mideast settlement at a meeting with 13 visiting U.S. Senators. Three of the conditions conflict with Israel’s basic policy.
THREE CONDITIONS TERMED UNACCEPTABLE
The three conditions are: withdrawal to the pre-June, 1967 borders; the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and inspection of nuclear facilities in the area, particularly Israel’s nuclear installation at Dimona which was closed to those same Senators when they visited this country last week. The fourth condition, which Israel probably would accept, was a ban on nuclear weapons in the region.
Fahmy is not taken seriously in Israel and some say he is not taken seriously in Egypt. About two years ago he came up with another set of conditions for peace which included a 50-year suspension of immigration to Israel. But observers consider it unlikely that Fahmy made his latest remarks without the knowledge and approval of Sadat. They believe also that he was hinting to the Senators that if the new American Administration does not go along with Sadat’s version of peace, Egypt has other options.
Israeli experts believe that the Egyptian “peace offensive” is a short term one. Once the Carter Administration makes its Mideast policy clear, Cairo’s position is likely to change, they say. But they are not sure whether the change will represent a willingness to tackle real issues or just another tactical play leading nowhere.