Grounds for Optimism over the Resumption of Peace Talks with Egypt

Sources close to Premier Menachem Begin indicated today that despite his rift with President Carter there are grounds for optimism over the resumption of peace negotiations with Egypt. The sources suggested that President Anwar Sadat, having achieved through his peace initiative a “more neutral” stance by the United States, is now in a position to continue talks with Israel and advise the other Arab states to capitalize on the new situation and open their own negotiations with Israel.

Speculation was rife this morning that Defense Minister Ezer Weizman will go to Cairo very soon to renew his talks with Egyptian War Minister Mohammed Gamassy and other top officials. Weizman told newsmen that such a journey was not “imminent” and he “honestly does not know” when he would go to Cairo.

Nevertheless, informed sources believe that the Defense Minister will go there shortly on the pretext of delivering Begin’s reply to the latest letter from Sadat, received just before he left for Washington last week. Weizman himself said in a press interview Friday that contacts with Egypt had been allowed to lapse and that the government must try harder to renew them.

ENCOURAGED BY SADAT’S MODERATE REACTION

There were broad hints after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that the government intends to do that. Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor spoke of “new initiatives” to be launched shortly. Officials here are encouraged by Sadat’s relatively moderate reaction to Israel’s incursion into south Lebanon and the decision by the Egyptian parliament Saturday that the peace process should continue.

Non-governmental observers, however, tend to be skeptical. They believe that Sadat, now at the peak of his popularity in American Administration and Congressional circles, will prefer to let Israel stew in “its crisis with Washington” and allow Carter to “do his work for him.” Weizman is said to be aware of Sadat’s options and intends to play upon the Egyptian leader’s genuine desire to move toward a peace agreement with Israel. He is expected to try to induce Sadat to resume direct talks with Israel even if they are confined initially to the military level.

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