JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
The Cabinet decided today to delay its reaction to Egypt’s latest peace proposals until after this week’s meeting between the Israeli and Egyptian foreign ministers and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in London or elsewhere in Britain. Israel’s position is expected to be formulated when the Cabinet convenes again next Sunday.
There was no official disclosure of Egypt’s proposals which Defense Minister Ezer Weizman brought back with him Friday after meetings the day before with President Anwar Sadat and Egyptian War Minister Mohammed Gamassy near Salzburg, Austria. Weizman refused to comment to reporters when he landed at Ben Gurion Airport. He went directly to Premier Menachem Begin’s home to brief him on his talks with the Egyptians. Weizman said before leaving Austria that he and Sadat had “talked about ways and possibilities to achieve peace in the Middle East.” He did not elaborate.
The Cabinet, which was briefed by Weizman today, reportedly received the Egyptian ideas with what was described as cautious optimism. The optimism was said to have stemmed from the fact that what Sadat offered at Salzburg was considerably more moderate than his six-point peace plan conveyed to Israel July 3, which the Cabinet promptly rejected.
STILL A WIDE GAP
But there is still a wide gap between the Egyptian and Israeli positions. Sadat is still firmly opposed to Israel’s offer of “self-rule” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, according to reports circulating here, Egypt is prepared to accept some kind of Israeli military presence on the West Bank after a peace agreement is signed.
The presence would not be that of an “occupying power” but rather a military outpost that would ensure that the Jordan River remains Israel’s security border. Jordan’s reaction is unknown. The Jordanians said last week that they favored Egypt’s official six-point plan that would return the West Bank to Jordanian control pending final disposition of that territory. Whether Amman would go along with any modifications of that plan remains to be seen.
Maariv’s political correspondent reported today that the Weizman-Sadat talks in Salzburg did not touch on the issue of Israeli settlements in the Sinai. According to observers, this was not an oversight but an indication that the Egyptians want to postpone that problem to a later stage in negotiations.
Maariv claimed that Sadat is prepared to allow Israel to retain its three air fields in the Sinai and that he is willing to grant Israel the right of veto over immigration and emigration on the West Bank in order to relieve Israeli fears of a massive repatriation of Palestinian refugees.
Israeli sources said the essence of the new Egyptian proposals was brought up at Sadat’s meeting with Weizman in Cairo last March 30. They also said that Weizman’s optimism, on his return from Austria Friday, was not based on any substantive breakthrough but rather on an agreement to continue the Israeli-Egyptian dialogue beyond the foreign ministers’ talks in England. An Egyptian spokesman in Salzburg said that Weizman would meet again with Sadat in Alexandria at some future date.
RESOLUTION BY THE CABINET
Another matter that arose at today’s Cabinet meeting was Sadat’s very obvious preference to deal with Weizman rather than with Premier Menachem Begin who he described in a Jerusalem Post interview today as a “suspicious” and “bitter” man. The feeling here is that Sadat is trying to dictate who will negotiate for Israel and this is unacceptable. Weizman reportedly made it clear in his talks with the Egyptian leader that Israel has one Premier, that he enjoys the confidence of his entire Cabinet and that he alone is authorized to sign a peace agreement for Israel.
A resolution adopted by the Cabinet at the end of its five-hour session today indicated how seriously it takes this matter. It stated that “The sole authority to conduct negotiations with Egypt or with any other country currently in a state of war with Israel is with the government or its authorized representatives” –an obvious criticism of opposition leader Shimon Peres” meetings with Sadat in Vienna last week.
The resolution stated further that “The level of representation of the negotiating countries will be determined correspondingly,” indicating that Israel will insist that the Egyptians refrain in the future from selecting their negotiating partners and that meetings between Weizman and Sadat will not reoccur at Cairo’s pleasure.
The resolution added that “The delegations to the negotiations will be headed by the heads of state or the ministers authorized by them.” It concluded by calling for a resumption of the joint military and political committee talks broken off last January.