JERUSALEM (Dec. 11)
Premier Menachem Begin denied today that Israel was under American pressure to soften her declared position prior to the Cairo conference. Begin spoke to reporters after concluding a two-hour meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. The Premier’s denial was an indirect reference to a statement made Friday by President Carter that he expected Israel to match the Egyptian peace initiative.
Asked to comment about rumors that Israel was expected to make concessions, or soften its position, Begin said: “Words, words, words.” He added: “What should now be considered by every man of good will is that we have embarked upon the peacemaking process. There is going to be serious negotiations to conclude and sign peace treaties. We will have very serious discussions with the Arabs about all the problems concerning the peacemaking process.” Begin reiterated his hope that negotiations would also take place with other Arab countries in addition to Egypt.
Carter’s comments were made to a group of editors Friday and released by the White House yesterday. The President said: “I personally believe that the Sadat visit to Jerusalem has broken through what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles and has greatly clarified the issues that still have to be addressed I believe Sadat showed a great deal of courage. My hope and expectation is that the Israelis will respond accordingly.”
SADAT DETERMINED TO PROCEED
Vance reportedly told the Israelis that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was determined to proceed with his peace initiative and was not concerned with its affects on his standing in the Arab world. Sadat believes that other Arab countries will eventually join the Cairo conference, according to Vance.
But according to some reports, Sadat expects the Israelis to come to Cairo “with something in their hands.” He wants the Cairo negotiations to be substantive, without unnecessary delays. Vance was under the impression that Sadat was interested in U.S. involvement in the peace initiative, apparently to counteract increased Soviet involvement in Syrian policy.
Vance reportedly told Israel that Syria has carefully left a door open to her return to peace talks. He suggested that despite Syria’s active role in the extremists’ summit in Tripoli last week, Syrian President Hafez Assad opposed the Cairo talks as a forum, but unlike other hardliners, did not oppose the talks as such. Vance noted that the Syrians have even welcomed his own visit to the area, although it was obvious that the visit would promote the Cairo conference and Sadat’s initiative.
POSSIBILITY OF UPGRADING LEVEL OF TALKS
The possibility of upgrading the Cairo talks to the Foreign Ministers’ level also apparently remains open. In the last few days there have been reports that Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan will represent Israel at what is being termed “the second stage” in the Cairo talks beginning early next month.
Meanwhile, the Israeli delegation which is expected to leave for Cairo Tuesday morning has been upgraded by the addition of a third member, Abraham Tamir, chief of the Israel Defense Force’s planning division. Tamir, who was appointed to the delegation by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, head a special team of officers named by Weizman to evaluate and review Israel’s security requirements following Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem. Tamir also participated in the negotiations for the 1975 Sinai agreement. The first meeting between Vance and the ministerial negotiating team took place last night, shortly after Vance’s plane landed at Ben Gurion Airport. Vance met with Begin, Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, Dayan and Weizman for a two-hour meeting. It was also attended by Undersecretary of State Philip Habib, Assistant Secretary Alfred Atherton, Deputy Assistant Secretary Harold Sounders and Ambassador Samuel Lewis.