TEL AVIV (Jan. 15)
The fate of Israeli-Egyptian negotiations, which hung in the balance over the weekend, was settled favorably today with an apparent agreement by the two sides over an agenda for the joint political committee talks. Egyptian foreign Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Kaamel, head of Cairo’s negotiating team, arrived at Ben Gurion Airport this afternoon where he was greeted by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan who heads the Israeli delegation.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had postponed his departure for Israel at the last minute because of the agenda deadlock, announced in Washington today that he was leaving for Jerusalem late tonight. He is expected here tomorrow evening. Because of the delay, the political committee will convene in Jerusalem Tuesday instead of tomorrow as originally scheduled. The joint military committee, which adjourned in Cairo Friday, is now scheduled to resume its deliberations Jan. 23, one week from tomorrow.
The gloom that enveloped Israel yesterday when it appeared that the entire peace initiative may be jeopardized, was dissipated today when Premier Menachem Begin emerged from a Cabinet meeting to announce that the Cabinet had agreed to an agenda formula acceptable to Egypt. He said it had been conveyed immediately to Egypt and to the United States. It is believed that both sides made concessions.
Begin said, “We have not yet received final word from the meeting now in progress between the U.S. Ambassador (Hermann Eilts) in Cairo and President (Anwar) Sadat but there is hope that the matter will be agreed to by all sides, that is the governments of Israel, the U.S. and Egypt. If this will happen, the meeting of the joint Israeli-Egyptian committee will open as planned tomorrow and the Secretary of State, Mr. Vance, will also be attending,” Begin said.
The arrival of Kaamel confirmed that the formula was acceptable to Egypt and the only change of plans was the one-day postponement of the political committee meeting and the one-week postponement of the military talks in Cairo Kaamel was accompanied by the members of his negotiating team, former Acting Foreign Minister Pierre Butrus-Ghalli who is now Minister for International Affairs, and Esmat Abdul Meguid, Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who was the chief negotiator for Egypt at last month’s Cairo conference.
LOOKING FORWARD WITH HOPE
There were smiles and handshakes as Kaamel and his party descended from an Egyptian Airways jet to the red carpet where Dayan was waiting and, behind him, scores of Israeli and foreign journalists. Dayan welcomed the guests, saying: “We are looking forward with much hope to the coming peace talks. I can assure you we shall listen attentively to what you have to say. We shall be willing to come towards you. I wish you an enjoyable time in Israel, in Jerusalem and wish our talks are productive and fruitful.”
Kaamel said, in a prepared statement, that he would respond in the same spirit of hope and recalled President Anwar Sadat’s words when he addressed the Knesset last Nov. 20 that “we came with an open heart and open mind.” He said the political committee talks “are an important step” toward the goal of peace.
Then he added: “We have proved our commitment for genuine peace. However, there are certain facts which are hard to face. There will be no peace with occupied lands, there can be no peace with the denial of the rights of the Palestinians, including their right for self-determination. There can be no peace without the feeling of all that they can live in security,” he said.
There was no indication of what the Cabinet decided today that averted a crisis in the peace talks. According to one source, the deadlock had been over how to formulate the agenda item on the Palestinians. The Egyptians were understood to favor labeling it the “Palestinian question.” Israel is believed to have insisted that the agenda item refer to the “Palestinian Arabs of Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza district.” In any event, the impasse caused Vance to postpone his trip to Jerusalem only 90 minutes before the scheduled flight time yesterday.
VANCE TO DEAL WITH SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES
(State Department spokesman Hodding Carter announced the postponement in Washington at 8:30 p.m. local time last night. He said the U.S. had informed Egypt and Israel that unless there was agreement on the agenda, Vance would not leave because he wanted to discuss only substantive issues in Jerusalem.
(The Carter Administration has indicated that the U.S. will be taking a more active role to bridge the gaps between Israel and Egypt. In that connection, an Administration official, briefing reporters. Friday, said the U.S. will propose a temporary formula for administering the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would embrace an agreement between Israel and Egypt on the nature of a future overall settlement, including the Palestinian issue but would postpone for an interim, possibly of five years, the exercise of self-determination by the Palestinians.)