JERUSALEM (Sep. 21)
The Israeli government believes that a separate peace with Egypt will be concluded within the three-month deadline set by Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat at the Camp David summit conference and that Israel, therefore is under no pressure to hasten negotiations for the more complex comprehensive peace treaty involving the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan and the Palestinians.
This view emerged in a television interview with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan last night and Dayan’s remarks to foreign newsmen here this morning. Dayan told the reporters that Israel would have an open-ended right to buy Arab land and settle on the West Bank even after a peace treaty is signed. He repeated Begin’s contention in the U.S. during the past few days, that Israel’s agreement to freeze the establishment of new settlements in the occupied territories applied only to the three-month period while a peace treaty is being negotiated with Egypt.
MISUNDERSTANDING ON SETTLEMENTS FREEZE
Dayan acknowledged that the U.S. and Egypt contend that the freeze applies to the five year transitional period on the West Bank and Gaza Strip provided in the Camp David accords.
(According to an exclusive interview with Begin published in the Wall Street Journal in New York today, the Premier acknowledged that “a genuine misunderstanding” exists between himself and President Carter over Israel’s commitment on the settlement freeze. He promised that “he would check his memory with that of other members of the Israeli delegation when he returns to Israel,” the Journal said.)
It was reported here and in the U.S. that the misunderstanding is holding up the exchange of letters between Israel, Egypt and the U.S. that are supposed to spell out Israel’s commitments about future settlements on the West Bank.
These developments occurred as U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance arrived in Riyadh today for a two-day visit to attempt to persuade the leaders of Saudi Arabia to support the Camp David accords. Vance was in Amman yesterday but reportedly made no headway in efforts to convince King Hussein of Jordan to join the peace negotiations.
JORDAN’S ROLE PLAYED DOWN
In his television remarks last night, Dayan played down the Jordanian element in the projected negotiations. He said that Jordan was only one of four parties involved in the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the others being Israel, Egypt and the local Palestinians. He said that in the absence of an agreement, the Israeli military government would continue to exist. But he insisted that there was no linkage between the projected peace treaty with Egypt and a settlement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip even though Sadat made it clear that he regards them as part of the same package.
Analysts here note that the Israeli government apparently believes that once a treaty is signed with its most powerful neighbor, Israel will have all the time in the world for hard bargaining over the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; that time is on Israel’s side and that the longer the “hard decision” can be postponed, the better.
(The Wall Street Journal quoted Begin as saying that Israel would remain in control of those territories during the five-year transition period. “As Mr. Begin sees it, after five years, Israel would assert its right to sovereignty over the West Bank and if others–the Palestinians or Jordan–asserted the same right then the question could go unanswered and Israeli troops would remain on the West Bank and Palestinians living there would continue to run their local government,” the Journal reported.)
It is believed here that Vance is using Israel’s viewpoint to persuade Jordan and Saudi Arabia to support the Camp David accords and thereby hasten the negotiating process that Israel is in no hurry to begin. He will also attempt to convince President Hafez Assad of Syria, who he will visit over the weekend, not to block the Camp David agreements.
So far, the Arab rejectionist front has remained adamantly opposed to the summit talks and their outcome. Even King Hassan of Morocco, a leading moderate in the Arab world, has expressed reservations over a separate peace between Israel and Egypt.
It is too early to say whether the Arabs’ position reflects their traditional intransigence or is merely an opening ploy in the bargaining process. But the view here is that if they elect to remain outside the Camp David frameworks they will be confronted by an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty at the end of the year. In that case, observers here say, they will be unable to maintain the conflict with Israel in the absence of Egyptian support.