Menu JTA Search

Sadat’s Pessimistic Words in Two Interviews Cast a Pall on Talks

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

The joint Israeli-Egyptian political committee will begin its deliberations here Tuesday in an atmosphere made tense by the weekend’s deadlock over agenda–since resolved–and by the pessimistic, almost despairing words of President Anwar Sadat in interviews given Friday to the Egyptian weekly magazine, October, and Thursday to this correspondent in his capacity as diplomatic correspondent of the Jerusalem Post.

The swift resolution of the agenda difficulties, apparently as a result of concessions on both sides, offered a small glimmer of hope. It is believed that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s threat not to come to Jerusalem until the matte was settled spurred the Israelis and Egyptians to intensify their efforts to reach an agreement. If so, Vance succeeded.

But Sadat’s expressions of disappointment and anger, his allegation that Israel has failed to respond to his peace initiative, his veiled threat to resort to “another stand”–of which he did not elaborate–and his gloomy prognostication of events that would cause him to resign, cast a heavy pall over the first stage of substantive peace talks. They also elicited an urgent call from Premier Menachem Begin for a “complete armistice in public statements” in order to give the negotiations a chance.

In a television interview last night, responding to Sadat’s statements to October which the Middle East News Agency distributed in advance of its publication today, Begin defended Israel’s peace proposals which, he said, were pronounced “a fair basis for negotiations” by President Carter, British Prime Minister James Callaghan and many others. He said he would not exchange polemics with Sadat on the eve of “serious discussions.”

SADAT: ISRAEL LAST ‘ESSENCE OF MY INITIATIVE’

Sadat, in a 75-minute interview at his winter home in Aswan–the first exclusive interview he granted to an Israeli newspaper–“wondered” if his visit to Jerusalem had changed anything in Israeli policy thinking. “Don’t you see that you have got everything?” he shouted at me in uncontrived anguish. “And then you are starting to bargain with me on my land. No. You have lost the essence of my initiative.”

He said he did not regret embarking on his initiative because his responsibility to future generations impelled him to seek peace through every avenue. It was “a sacred mission. And if it will end in my resignation, I will feel happy, yes, happy, because what I fear for my future generations I tried to (avert)…but I couldn’t. Well, let someone else continue with the whole thing after me.”

Sadat was genuinely upset by Begin’s hard line speech to his Herut constituency a week ago and by the Israeli government’s decision to expand settlements in the Rafah salient of northern Sinai.

“This shouldn’t be an issue at all,” Sadat declared. “Or don’t you want peace? Your people, your government, how could you imagine anyone agreeing to this, to giving their land to someone, to others…? And look, they say they will be defending them by the Israeli army.” At that point, Sadat appeared almost speechless with anger. “Absurd. I would never have agreed to such logic as this.”

But the Egyptian President did not slam the door on peace negotiations. “I say, let us give the committees the opportunity to convene–and after that we shall have our say,” he said.

SOUNDS POSITIVE NOTE

Sadat did sound a positive note when he revealed to this reporter the six-point Egyptian plan for Sinai which was, at the moment, being submitted at the military committee meeting in Cairo. Later reports from the Egyptian capital indicated that the proposals were seen by Israel as a good basis for negotiations, although they avoid the settlements issue.

The points were: demilitarization, to be “reciprocal,” i.e. on both sides of the border but with Sadat “taking into consideration” the relative sizes of Israel and of Sinai; early warning stations to be manned by a third party; limited forces zones; United Nations forces at Sharm el-Sheikh and “along the border” a joint declaration in the peace agreement that the Gulf of Aaaba is an international waterway; a joint Israeli-Egyptian military committee to meet regularly.

Sadat added another point. “Number seven, say this: you can drop all those six points that I told you. And instead of it I would have preferred that you would have agreed upon the fact that our intention is that you live secure. For that (reason) we shall be opening the borders, we shall be normalizing everything.”

Regarding the West Bank, Sadat said he was proposing an Israel-Jordan-Egypt-Palestinian committee to work out security arrangements for the area. He said he would not define the Palestinians who would participate “at this stage” but he was sure that if agreement could be reached on “the principle” the question of definition would be resolved easily. (The interview appeared in full in Friday’s Jerusalem Past and in part in Friday’s Daily News Bulletin.)

GIVES WARNING TO ISRAEL

Sadat was more pessimistic and tougher in his interview with October magazine. He said he now had “absolutely no hope” of reaching an agreement on principles with Israel, the goal that has eluded both sides since Sadat’s summit meeting with Begin at Ismailia last month. He claimed that Israel has offered him “nothing” in exchange for the concessions he has made to them and warned that Israel’s attitude could stir a new wave of Arab hostility. “Israel is sowing the winds and therefore will reap the storms,” he said.

Sadat also spoke to October of resigning. He said if his peace initiative failed, “I will turn over my past to somebody else and he will have to complete this mission or decide something else, some other method,” Sadat said. He warned, “It is not my divine mission to pamper the Israelis, talk about them and their sufferings and justify their mistakes without reaching a solution that will serve them more than it will serve us.”

He said, “I have offered security and legality” but “I received nothing in exchange. I have proferred my hand with honesty and the rest depends on them….Israel will regret that it has given birth to new springs of hatred and fanaticism against it….This will be a great loss for Israel….”

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Past reported that Sadat has commissioned architects to draw up plans for a combined church, mosque and synagogue on top of the Biblical Mt. Sinai as a sanctuary of worship for the three faiths.

NEXT STORY