JERUSALEM (Nov. 24)
The Cabinet met in special session today, its first meeting since President Anwar Sadat’s visit, but reached no decisions with respect to any alteration of Israel’s policies, according to Cabinet secretary Arye Naor. A communique issued after the meeting reaffirmed the importance of Sadat’s visit and stated: “Negotiations over the establishment of peace and the signing of peace agreements between Israel and her neighbors will continue.”
Naor said the question of Geneva conference procedures was not raised at today’s meeting. Premier Menachem Begin, speaking to reporters later, denied that a date has been set for reconvening the Geneva conference. With respect to continuing negotiations with Egypt, he said no timetable was arranged in his talks with Sadat but “such negotiations must take place and we are now waiting for that.”
Naor said that once the negotiations get underway, they will deal with preparations for the Geneva conference and would be open, just like the talks with Sadat in Jerusalem. Begin stressed that there was no change in Israel’s position on the Palestinian issue.
Sadat had indicated during his visit here that he was more interested in substance than procedure in preparing for Geneva. Begin in fact confirmed that the preparatory negotiations would deal with substantive matters thereby diminishing the importance of the Geneva talks since some agreements are bound to be reached before they are reconvened.
NEED TO MAINTAIN MOMENTUM
Cabinet sources said later that Premier Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan had referred to an article in the Cairo daily Al-Akhbar yesterday which warmly praised Israel’s treatment of Sadat and Sadat’s message to President Ephraim Katzir. They said that these developments demonstrated that Egypt was thoroughly satisfied with Sadat’s visit and its results.
The Cabinet was also aware of the friendly message sent to Sadat by King Khaled of Saudi Arabia whose support is considered vital to Sadat in his efforts to overcome the objections of Arab hard-liners. Cabinet sources told reporters that Begin and other top ministers were fully aware of the historic opportunity created by Sadat’s visit and the need to maintain the “momentum” achieved. They asserted that the dialogue that Sadat and Begin had agreed to would start shortly even though the “methods” have yet to be worked out.
Although the Cabinet communique mentioned no Israeli gesture toward Egypt it was a subject of today’s meeting according to informed sources. The Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) ministers were reportedly the most vocal in demanding some Israeli initiative. Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir was quoted as saying “There is no doubt that we have to go along with the momentum (created by Sadat’s visit) and speed up its rate There is considerable significance to the timing and we shall have to cope with powerful challenges,” he said.
DAYAN RULES OUT ISRAELI ‘GESTURE’
But Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said emphatically at a press conference here yesterday that there would be no Israeli “gesture” toward Egypt in response to Sadat’s visit. According to Dayan, such a move “would create more difficulties for Sadat and he doesn’t want it or need it.” Dayan was referring to Sadat’s troubles with the hard-line Arab states and the PLO which have denounced his visit to Israel and accused him of selling out the Palestinian and Arab cause.
Dayan did not explain why Israel would not make a gesture to all of the Arab confrontation states rather than Egypt alone thereby allaying Arab fears that Sadat had made a separate deal with Israel. But it was clear from his remarks that no such move was in the offing. He said those at home who expected it and those abroad who demanded it were either hypocritical or naive.
Nevertheless, Dayan acknowledged that the time has come for Israel to make crucial decisions about its peace proposals and conditions, what it could offer and what it could not concede. He said the Cabinet and the various parties would have to begin this process, bearing in mind that Egypt is seeking speedy and intensive negotiations on the main peace issue in the weeks and months ahead.
Dayan also emphasized that Sadat’s proclamation that the October, 1973 war should be the last between Israel and Egypt was conditional on Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territory and the Egyptian leader retained the war option if a satisfactory settlement was not reached. “God forbid that we attach operative significance to the Sadat statement–positive though it was–and lower our defense guard,” Dayan warned.
Asked how that view squared with Begin’s public acclamation of Sadat’s end-of-wars pledge as “momentous and of great moral significance to the region and the whole world,” Dayan referred the questioner to Begin. He seemed to hinf there-by that a significant difference existed between his assessment and that of the Premier. Dayan said that no methods were agreed to by Begin and Sadat for the “continuity of the ongoing dialogue” and that the question of Palestinian representation at Geneva was not discussed.