WASHINGTON (Sep. 18)
Premier Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed two documents at the White House last night–to which President Carter added his signature as a witness–looking toward solutions of the problems of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Sinai peninsula in negotiations to be conducted in the weeks ahead.
The signing took place in the East Room of the White House before a packed audience that included a glittering array of the President’s top advisors, members of his Cabinet, Vice President Walter Mondale and leading members of the Senate and House as well as the ministers, advisors and aides who had participated in the Camp David summit conference.
The two agreements, containing a total of 3500 words, are not in themselves treaties but are subject to negotiations between Israel and Egypt on one hand, on the future of Sinai, and between Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the future of those territories.
“This is only a framework, not a peace agreement either regarding the Sinai or the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” a senior Administration official emphasized after the White House released the texts of the two documents this morning. The texts incorporate United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which are integral parts of the agreements.
FOUR CATEGORIES INVOLVED
At a briefing at the White House at noon today, the senior American official emphasized that the agreement take in four categories–the nature of the peace, the security arrangements for all parties, territorial issues which include the withdrawal of Israel’s military forces from the occupied areas and the issue of the Palestinians.
In discussing the agreements, the senior official stressed that there are no secret agreements or commitments on the part of the any of the three leaders who took part in the Camp David summit. That point was also stressed by Begin at a briefing for Israeli correspondents at his hotel here this morning.
However, both the Administration official and Begin said the U.S. has pledged to build two new military airfields for Israel on Israeli territory to replace the two airfields Israel wanted to maintain in Sinai. It was understood that Israel will retain the Sinai airfields until the new airfields are constructed. (See separate story.)
On the future of East Jerusalem, another senior Administration official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last night that letters will be exchanged between Egypt, Israel and the U.S. They were to have been made public this morning but technical difficulties precluded their immediate release, the official said.
RESOLUTION 242 NOT A SUFFICIENT FRAMEWORK
At the crowded White House briefing today which five top Administration officials attended, the senior spokesman pointed out that Resolution 242 was not a sufficient framework and therfore the conferees at Camp David had to “flesh out ambiguities,” especially with regard to the withdrawal question and the “political aspects of the Palestinian problem.”
The official disclosed that at Camp David, the U.S. submitted a “draft negotiating text” which drew on the proposals of Egypt and Israel and included “language of our own where the two sides were far apart.” He disclosed the agreement on the texts was reached at about 5 p.m. yesterday, seven hours short of the midnight deadline to terminate the conference. The last item dealt with the Palestinian issue and the self-governing authority–an administrative council–on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The agreements deal with the inclusion of the Kingdom of Jordan in the ultimate arrangements for those territories. The American spokesman said, “there are no assurances at this point that King Hussein will participate in the negotiations.” He disclosed that Carter will be speaking to Hussein today but that no decision is expected from the Jordanian monarch until he examines the documents.
When a reporter asked whether the result would be, in effect, a separate Israeli-Egyptian agreement if Jordan declines to participate in the negotiations, the official replied, “Let’s not cross that bridge about Jordan joining or not.”
The spokesman said that no new Israeli settlements will be established during the period of negotiations and that their future will be decided among the negotiating parties on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The situation in Sinai, however, is that Sadat wants the Israeli settlements in the Rafah salient removed as a prerequisite to agreement. That matter will be decided by the Knesset within two weeks of the signing of the Camp David agreements last night. It was felt here that the Knesset would agree, although a hard debate is expected.
ADVANTAGES TO ARABS CITED
The chief American spokesman pointed out, at length, the advantages accruing to the Arab people and governments that, he said, flow from the Camp David agreements. The text states: “Egypt, Israel and Jordan will agree on the modalities for establishing the elected self-governing authority in the West Bank and Gaza. The delegations of Egypt and Jordan may include Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza or other Palestinians as mutuall, agreed….”
The American spokesman noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization has criticized the agreements and that Syria’s reaction has been that they will not advance peace. In that connection, he enumerated the advantages accruing to the Arabs.
He said these include the end of the Israeli military occupation on the West Bank and Gaza Strip which has long been an Arab objective; the Palestinians, for the first time, will be selfgoverning with full autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Palestinians are recognized, with Egypt, Israel and Jordan as a full participant which gives them “a real voice in the determination of their own future.”
The spokesman stressed, in addition, that the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip will “take part” in the formulation of an Israeli-Jordanian treaty and in negatiations relating to such issues as Israel’s withdrawal and borders. Furthermore, he said, “whatever is agreed to regarding the final status” of the Palestinians will be “subject to ratification or rejection by the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza.”
He said Israel is committed to “work out procedures promptly on displaced persons and the broader refugee problem.” This was apparently a reference to Palestinian Arabs who have left these territories but the spokesman did not specify who these people are. He did say the agreements would “permit the return of many.”
The spokesman also pointed out that the agreements provided “the basis for a comprehensive settlement.” He said that “If and when the Arab countries study this, they will see that President Sadat has achieved the long desired objectives of the Arab world.” He said the U.S. will “urge” Saudi Arabia and Jordan to support the agreements.
ISSUE OF WEST BANK PALESTINIANS
Asked if only Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have the right to elect and serve on the administrative council and if Palestinians from outside those territories will be barred, the spokesman said “the document provides” that the “mutual agreement by all parties, including Israel, would decide on the Palestinian inhabitants in these elections.” He pointed out that it is “mutually agreed” that the West Bank inhabitants can participate regardless of their political persuasion.
Asked about adherents of the PLO, the spokesman said all bona fide residents of the territories could participate but Israel can execise a veto on Palestinians from outside. “The people who may be elected” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip “would be eligible regardless of what their political affiliations are,” he said, adding, “They can elect anybody they want.”
The American spokesman predicted that “the very tangible withdrawal” will be noticed in the “early days” of the negotiations which will result, he estimated tentatively, in the reduction of Israeli forces on the West Bank and Gaza Strip to about 6000 troops which will be in special garrisons away from urban areas. He estimated that presently Israel has some 10,000-11,000 troops in those territories. He pointed out that Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai will be “total” while the extent of withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip “has to be negotiated.”
Observers noted that the two documents, hurriedly prepared, doubtlessly are strewn with numerous pitfalls and ambiguities that will breed difficulties for an agreement and solution. This is much less true about the Sinai accord which seems clear enough, but applies mainly to the 2500 word document relating to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.