JERUSALEM (Jul. 25)
Western diplomatic observers said here today that Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s announcement to the Knesset yesterday that the Cabinet has endorsed his proposals for future negotiations with Egypt “seemed to provide the responsiveness, that Washington sought” when it presented Israel with questions last spring on the future status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Dayan said the government’s position now is that Israel would be prepared to discuss the sovereignty issue in those territories after a five-year period of “self rule” and that it would be ready to discuss territorial compromise if one is proposed. In its response to the American questionnaire last month, the Cabinet would say only that Israel was willing to review its relationship with the parties after a five-year interim.
That response was widely criticized abroad and in Israel as evasive. Sources close to Dayan said today that the lastest shift could be regarded as a softening of Israel’s position. They explained that it was made possible by the fact that Israel’s peace plan had been on the table at the foreign ministers conference at Leeds Castle, England last week along with Egypt’s proposals and that both were discussed in good faith and in a businesslike manner, although the vast gap between them was not bridged.
The sources noted that when the Cabinet replied to the U.S. questions in June, the Israeli plan had never been discussed at the negotiating table and there was no Egyptian counter proposal.
Dayan, however, made no commitment or even a hint that Israel was shifting away from its basic stance on the sovereignty issue–namely that it would never permit the West Bank and Gaza Strip to fall under foreign sovereignty. Sources here stressed that Dayan had said only that Israel would be ready to discuss the issue after five years. Dayan told the Knesset that he had offered this position to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at the Leeds Castle talks on his own initiative and then sought retroactive approval by the Cabinet. According to one report, Dayan indicated that he would resign if he failed to get the Cabinet’s backing.