JERUSALEM (Oct. 12)
An important but so far unilateral step by Israel toward reconvening the Geneva conference was taken last night when the Cabinet unanimously approved the “working paper” on procedures drafted last week by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in New York.
The Cabinet’s endorsement, without qualifications or amendments, after a five-hour special session that ended at midnight, was apparently in compliance with American urgings that Israel attach no conditions that would make it more difficult for the U.S. to “sell” the working paper to the Arabs.
The contents of the working paper were not divulged. Vance will now bring it before the Arab governments for their decision. Officials here expect further diplomatic contacts during the coming weeks before actual preparations to resume the Geneva conference can be made.
CARTER SENT MESSAGE TO BEGIN
Only hours before the Cabinet convened, it was disclosed that Premier Menachem Begin had received a personal message from President Carter urging that his government approve the document. Officials said the message was written in a friendly style and contained no hints that pressure might be applied if the Cabinet rejected the draft.
(In Washington, Carter said today he was pleased with the Cabinet decision. Last night the State Department issued a statement welcoming the Israeli move. See separate story.)
(In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy declined to comment today on the Israeli Cabinet decision but told reporters that prospects for reconvening Geneva peace talks by the end of the year were “bright.” He reported to President Anwar Sadat on his talks in the U.S. with Carter and Vance.)
(The PLO’s position remained as hardline as ever Permitted to address the UN General Assembly yesterday despite protests from the U.S. and Israel, Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO’s political department, said his group would continue its “armed struggle” against Israel. “Let it be crystal clear, no peace without the Palestinians and no Palestinians without the PLO,” Kaddoumi said.)
DECISION “SPEAKS FOR ITSELF”
The Cabinet had been expected to approve the working paper but to spell out that its approval was conditional upon acceptance of Israel’s refusal to negotiate with the PLO, refusal to negotiate over a Palestinian state on the West Bank and refusal to accept the U.S. Soviet joint declaration of Oct. I as any sort of basis for the Geneva talks. Such conditions were not attached, however. Cabinet secretary Arye Naor, briefing newsmen after the meeting, stressed that the decision “speaks for it self” and that “no appendices or stipulations” had been added.
The absence of conditions led some observers to deduce that the Carter Administration had urged Israel very strongly to give its approval unburdened by any qualifications that would impair chances of Arab acceptance. According to political correspondent Yosef Harif, writing in Maariv yesterday, Begin himself had tried to get the text amended as late as last Saturday because he was unhappy with a negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
During the course of the Cabinet session, the longest ever held by the Begin government, some ministers are understood to have expressed doubts about the working paper. But Begin and Dayan eventually prevailed upon their colleagues to comply with the American request to approve the draft without qualifications.
Naor told newsmen that the contents must remain unpublished for the time being so as not to prejudice the delicate diplomatic efforts still to follow. According to sources here the working paper provides for a united Arab delegation, including Palestinians, to participate in the opening session of the Geneva conference. Negotiations would follow between Israel and the multi-party Arab delegations on such issues as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the refugee problem. Substantive bilateral negotiations aimed at final peace treaties, would be conducted between Israel and each of the neighboring Arab states individually.
STORMY KNESSET SESSION EXPECTED
Last night’s Cabinet decision has not calmed the political waters in Israel. The government is expected to come under severe attack from Labor Alignment leader Shimon Peres at tomorrow’s special Knesset session for rushing headlong to ward Geneva without prior “coordination of policy” with the U.S.
Dayan’s reply was foreshadowed at his airport press conference when he returned from the U.S. yesterday. The Foreign Minister contended that “coordination of policy” with the U.S. under the previous Labor government was largely a myth. He cited Carter’s endorsement of the idea of a Palestinian homeland in his Clinton, Mass. speech immediately after his talks with former Premier Yitzhak Rabin last March.