Preparing for the Summit; the Scene from Jerusalem

Diplomatic preparations were in full swing here today to assure that the meeting Sept. 5 at Camp David between Premier Menachem Begin, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and President Carter has at least some modicum of success. There were reports this morning that a special Cabinet session has been scheduled for tomorrow for an initial discussion of the summit agenda and the return of Secretary Cyrus Vance to the Middle East within 10 days to help both sides in their preparatory work.

On the substantive level it appears that the United States would want to achieve, at the very least, the conclusion of the elusive declaration of principles that has been sought without success since the meeting between Begin and Sadat at Ismailia last Christmas Day.

Now, during the buildup before the Camp David talks, the U.S. can be expected to press with redoubled vigor for Israel to accept Carter’s “Aswan formula” as the basis for a “declaration” on the Palestinian question and for a clear-cut acceptance of the “principle of withdrawal under Resolution 242″ as applying to all fronts, including the West Bank.

Vance, during his talks in the area this week, highlighted Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s recent Knesset pronouncements on the West Bank as the harbinger of a significant and meaningful shift of Israeli policy. Dayan told the Knesset, following the Leeds Castle talks in England, that Israel would be prepared to discuss West Bank sovereignty after five years and would be prepared to discuss a territorial compromise in the area if the Arab side proposed it.

That went a good deal further, at least semantically, than previous Israeli policy statements. Until then Israel had refused U.S. requests to give a prior commitment that it would discuss the sovereignty issue after five years. Moreover, Dayan’s readiness to entertain the notion of a West Bank territorial compromise, even on the hypothetical plane, represented his own views, not necessarily the whole government’s. Now, however, Dayan made his pronouncements after clear Cabinet endorsement–and Begin has subsequently re-echoed them.

U.S. WILL SEEK SPECIFIC COMMITMENTS

Vance will now seek to secure from Israel a specific commitment not just to discuss these issues, but to be prepared to renounce sovereignty and control over parts of the West Bank. For Begin and Herut, of course, this poses a tremendous ideological challenge. But the U.S. is convinced that without such a clear-cut commitment to “the principle of withdrawal” it will be impossible to achieve the declaration of principles.

Begin, in announcing his acceptance of Carter’s invitation to join with Carter and Sadat at the summit conference, denied rumors that Israel had made any change in its negotiating position. He also denied that Vance had asked Israel to change its position when the Secretary held his talks with Israeli leaders last weekend.

Sadat, in making his announcement yesterday of accepting Carter’s invitation, fielded reporters’ questions as to whether Israel had changed its stand enough to justify his meeting Begin. Asked whether he had received any private assurances from Washington to prompt him to attend the summit, Sadat said: “All I ask in Camp David is that President Carter on behalf of the United States acts as a full partner. Whenever I am assured of this, I shall always answer any invitation from President Carter.”

Both Sadat and Vance, speaking at a joint press conference in Alexandria, made it clear that the U.S. now is prepared to act as a full partner in the Mideast talks. But, Vance added, “as I have always said on many, many occasions, the United States will feel free when it sees obstacles that are impeding the road to peace to make suggestions as to how to bridge those obstacles.”

Sadat also called on all sides to let bygones be bygones. The summit “is in my opinion a new page. Let us not look back,” he said. Similarly, Begin, speaking in Tel Aviv, said that “what has happened, has happened” and that “one should know how to open a new page.”

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