JERUSALEM (Apr. 24)
The tempo of Middle East diplomacy quickened over the weekend as new efforts took shape to break the negotiating impasse between Israel and Egypt. President Carter invited Premier Menachem Begin of Israel to meet with him at the White House when he goes to the U. S. next week. Begin accepted, but no date has been announced. It will be their second meeting in less than two months.
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan leaves for Washington tomorrow night for two days of talks with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. U.S. Ambassador Alfred L. Atherton, Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, conferred with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt for two-and-a-half hours yesterday. He said after wards that they had reached a much clearer understanding on possible approaches to resume the stalled peace talks.
Atherton met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kaamel in Cairo today. It was reported that Sadat offered to send Kaamel to Washington after Dayan’s visit. Meanwhile, in Amman, King Hussein of Jordan renewed his call for an Arab summit meeting to devise strategy to recover Israel-occupied territory and win the right of Palestinians to determine their future.
Carter’s invitation to Begin was conveyed to the Premier by a representative of the U.S. Embassy. Begin had planned some time ago to visit the U.S. to participate in American Jewish community celebrations of Israel’s 30th anniversary. But until this weekend, it was uncertain that he would be invited to meet with Carter. The invitation to Dayan was extended last week.
NO NEW PROPOSALS INDICATED
All indications were that the Israeli leaders will not be bringing any new proposals to Washington. The official view here is that Israel is awaiting Egypt’s response to its latest proposals which were presented to Sadat by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman on his visit to Cairo last month. It is believed here that Atherton may have received that response in his talks with Sadat.
Weizman said in an interview with Yediot Achronot published last Friday that “there are some points that must be clarified between us and the Egyptians,” but he was convinced that the Egyptians want peace and “I think we should give them a chance to renew the peace process.”
Despite the apparent absence of new proposals by Israel, there was reason to believe that the government is studying various options for a joint declaration of principles that would be acceptable to the U.S. The Cabinet did not hold its weekly session yesterday because of the Passover holiday. But Begin and Dayan conferred for 90 minutes in preparation for Dayan’s trip to Washington. Their meeting was attended by Israel’s two top legal experts, Attorney General Aharon Barak and Meir Rosenne, legal advisor to the Foreign Ministry. Both reportedly will accompany Dayan to Washington.
Barak, who was present at all phases of the negotiations with Egypt and the U.S., is considered indispensable to the efforts to work out a joint declaration acceptable to all parties.
IMPROVED ATMOSPHERE NOTED
Observers here also believe that the atmosphere has improved since Begin’s last meeting with Carter in March which Begin described as “difficult.” They believe that the strained relations that developed with Washington after that meeting may have been eased by three developments: the government’s latest formulation on Security Council Resolution 242 which specifically mentions Jordan as a partner in the implementation of the resolution; the continued freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Arab territories; and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon which is still in process.
Dayan, who engaged in a televised policy debate with farmer Foreign Minister Abba Eban Saturday night, said the differences between Israel and the U.S. were not “unbridgeable. ” He claimed in fact, that the U. S. “has moved considerably toward us.”
But reports from Washington today indicated that Administration officials believe difficult negotiations will be required to narrow the gap between the U. S. and Israel on key issues. While they see no atmosphere of confrontation surrounding the discussions with Dayan and Begin, they imply that Israel will have to be more forthcoming if the negotiating process is to be resumed.
U. S. officials apparently do not share Dayan’s view that Cabinet’s latest formulation on Resolution 242 represents a new approach by Israel. Some in Washington see it as a tactical move to reconcile sharp differences within the Israeli government. Dayan is credited with efforts to obtain some degree of flexibility but the Americans are uncertain as to whether he succeeded.
In some Carter Administration quarters, the feeling is that no progress toward peace can be achieved until Israel states clearly that Resolution 242 applies to territorial withdrawal on all fronts and that the Palestinians have the right to participate in the decisions that will determine their future. In the view of these circles, Israel has yet to move in that direction.
ISSUE OF RESOLUTION 242
But in his debate with Eban, Dayan hinted that Israel would be willing to consider Arab proposals for the West Bank although it continues to oppose partition of that territory. “If the Arabs were to make a proposal it would be considered substantively,” he said. The debate focussed on Israel’s interpretation of Resolution 242 which Begin insists does not apply to territorial withdrawals from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Eban argued that this interpretation, a departure from the position taken by previous Israeli governments, caused Israel unnecessary harm in the court of world opinion. He noted that while the Cabinet drafted a reformulation, the diplomatic guidelines issued by Dayan last week affirmed Begin’s offer of self-rule for the West Bank Arabs and Israel’s permanent military presence in that territory. Dayan defended the plan on grounds that the Arabs had never responded when previous governments expressed a willingness to withdraw and therefore it was time to try an alternative approach.
According to Dayan, there is no difference in principle between his policy guidelines and the American view that 242 must be implemented on all fronts. The guidelines specifically mention Egypt, Jordan and Syria as negotiating partners, he pointed out.
He also claimed that the U. S. has changed its policy and is now willing to consider the possibility of Israeli troops remaining indefinitely on the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the framework of a peace agreement. Former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, asked to comment later, said that had been the American position during the Rabin administration.