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Report Sharp Divisions in Cabinet over Continuing Contacts with Egypt

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Sharp divisions within the Cabinet over the value of continuing contacts with Egypt in their present from have surfaced in the past few days. In conversations with various members of the Knesset, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan reportedly described the “Jerusalem-Cairo” axis as “barren,” a reference to Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s meetings with President Anwar Sadat two weeks ago and his projected return visit to Cairo that was supposed to take place this week.

Although Weizman did not succeed in persuading Sadat to resume the military and political committee talks, suspended since January, he expressed the view, in his subsequent briefings of the Cabinet, that the maintenance of these contacts was the most effective way to break the negotiations impasse. He cited the fact that Sadat invited him to return in support of that argument.

But some Cabinet members claimed Sadat was engaging in a public relations ploy aimed at widening the gap between Israel and the U.S. It was also suggested that the Egyptians were trying to build up Weizmann whom they regard as far more flexible than Premier Menachem Begin.

WANTS TO COORDINATE MOVES WITH U.S.

Dayan is expressing the view that contacts along the lines of the Weizman-Sadat meeting will be fruitless unless Israel coordinates its position beforehand with the U.S., as, he claimed, the Egyptians constantly do. He stressed his belief that the U.S. must be kept in the picture under all circumstances, although he described the current situation as one of deterioration in Israeli-American relations.

According to Dayan, Israel and the U.S. may have had temporary differences in the past but were generally considered to be in the same camp. As Dayan sees it, Egypt has now become an ally of the U.S. and Israel finds itself in a comer.

Dayan warned that the current style of negotiations would lead to deadlock and the possible revival of the old proposal for nothing more than an end-of-belligerency agreement between Israel and Egypt. In that case, he said, Israel might make a partial withdrawal from Sinai as its contribution.

Nevertheless, Israel and Egypt were still reported to be engaged in behind-the-scenes preparations for a return trip to Cairo by Weizman. No date has been announced and the visit may hinge on the outcome of the on-going debate in the Cabinet. So far both governments appear to be probing each other’s intentions to determine whether there are good prospects for substantial progress if direct negotiations are resumed.

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