ASWAN (Jan. 10)
President Anwar Sadat moved deliberately today to contain the escalation of inflammatory statements and counterstatements between Egypt and Israel, saying that the substantive positions at the forthcoming talks–not the advance rhetoric–were what really mattered. He said he hoped Israel would prove not to have toughened its substantive position. He made his remarks to reporters here, a day before the opening of the military committee’s deliberations in Cairo.
But at the same time, Sadat firmly reiterated that Israel’s choice was “between land and peace,” and warned that Israel could not hope for peace so long as it was occupying another’s territory.
In the Egyptian press, meanwhile, the angry reactions to Israel’s latest settlement actions reached a new crescendo of bitterness, casting a shadow over the start of the talks in Cairo. Much quoted is a lengthy front page editorial today by Al Akhbar editor Mouss Sabry urging “the Israeli people to press their government” against “a return to the stone age–with all its blood and wars and threats.”
AN UNRESTRAINED ATTACK
The most vituperatively unrestrained of the Cairo papers was the “Egyptian Gazette,” the English-language daily put out by the publishers of the independent and influential “Al Goumhourriya.” Rebutting Premier Menachem Begin’s argument that land accretion in the wake of a defensive war is not “impermissible,” the paper continued in its editorial today:
“It is absurd for a 7000-year-old nation to discuss ‘territorial changes’ with a collection of Khazar Jews who just about have enough claim (sic) to Arab lands as Eskimos to Tasmania. Let it be known to Mr. Begin and his rough crew of land-grabbers that there can never be any peace agreement between Egypt and Israel…so long as one Israeli soldier remains on Egyptian soil. The real Jews of this world, not to be confused with Mr. Begin’s converted-from-phallus-worship lot, began their exodus from Pharaonic Egypt circa 1222 B.C. with Egyptian chariots in hot pursuit.”
Without mentioning what happened to the chariots, the editorial concluded: “We should like to tell today’s Israelis: let’s begin the exodus once again, gentlemen, but this time we hope there will be no need for chariots.”
SADAT ESCHEWS POLEMICS
Sadat, who spoke to reporters after escorting the visiting Shah of Iran to the airstrip here and again when receiving a group of British MPs, said he did not want to get into public polemics with Begin. “But Israel cannot have peace so long as she holds another’s land. Israel’s choice is land or peace.”
British Conservative MP Sir Dennis Walters observed that this had “always been Israel’s choice–and they have always chosen land. What makes you think,” he asked Sadat as reporters listened, “that they’ll choose differently this time?” But Sadat–significantly–refused to join the Englishman in his a priori condemnation of Israel. He agreed on the historical reading, but added: “It was clear to me from my trip to Jerusalem that the people of Israel want peace.” (In Washington, the State Department said today that the clashes of viewpoints by Sadat and Begin are “secondary” to their “commitment” to peace.