JERUSALEM (Oct. 12)
Israeli officials are welcoming the statements by President Carter and President Anwar Sadat on the eve of the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks that opened in Washington today. Both leaders sought to play down the “linkage” between an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the delicate issues relating to the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Both the U.S. and Egypt appear to share Israel’s awareness that the Washington talks could stumble over West Bank problems and, like Israel are determined to avoid such pitfalls if at all possible.
President Carter told a press conference Tuesday that, as he understood Sadat’s intentions the Egyptian leader would not “let any single element” of the West Bank-Gaza Strip disputes impede the conclusion of a treaty with Israel. Carter was referring to the still unresolved differences between the U.S. and Israel over the duration of a settlements freeze on the West Bank. Carter noted, in a delicately balanced comment, that the two Camp David frameworks were “not legally interrelated. But in the minds of myself, Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat they were interrelated.”
SADAT DENOUNCES SYRIA
Israelis were apparently delighted and, in no small measure, surprised, by the intensity of Sadat’s denunciation of Syria’s actions in Lebanon and his flat statement that he has lost patience with the Arab hardliners.
Addressing a meeting of Egypt’s Supreme Judiciary Council in Cairo Tuesday, Sadat said he has gone as far as he could or would in trying to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Syrians and Palestinians because of “their ingratitude and obscenities.” He excoriated Syrian action in Lebanon as “murder for murder’s sake.”
Sadat’s remarks were seen here and in Cairo as a significant shift away from his earlier determination to negotiate with Israel over the West Bank if Jordan and the Palestinians continue to remain aloof. “I have had enough,” the Egyptian leader told the jurists. “In the name of the Egyptian people, I did my duty (at Camp David) in regard to the principles governing the Palestinian question and the Golan Heights.”
The Egyptian leader added: “As for details, they will have to go and negotiate for themselves I would have liked to do it on their behalf but their ingratitude and obscenities have gone beyond all limits….Let everyone keep his size and his place from now on.”
Regarding Lebanon, Sadat declared: “What is happening in Lebanon goes beyond any imagination. It’s murder for murder’s sake. It’s bloodshed for bloodshed’s sake. The fate of nations is being played with just as children play with toys on the streets. I shall never put the destiny of Egypt or the Arab cause in the hands of those children, those murderers….”
STRESSES NEED FOR COMPREHENSIVE SETTLEMENT
At the same time, Sadat and other Egyptian spokesmen continue to stress the need for a “comprehensive” settlement and to reiterate that an Israeli-Egyptian treaty is only one phase in the movement toward such a settlement. Clearly for inter-Arab reasons, Egypt will need a modicum of “linkage” between a treaty with Israel and progress toward autonomy on the West Bank and the issue of linkage doubtlessly will come up in the Washington talks.
Sadat predicted, in his Cairo speech, that the Israeli military government on the West Bank would be withdrawn the day a peace treaty with Egypt is signed. Israeli officials point out that in the absence of Jordanian and Palestinian cooperation it would be difficult to establish the projected autonomy. But they indicated that Israel might take some form of unilateral action along the lines suggested by Sadat as a demonstration of good faith and determination to press on with the eventual transition to autonomy.
In fact, Israel has already taken significant steps to emphasize its sincerity regarding the West Bank. The government announced last week the establishment of a high-level committee to discuss practical aspects of the transition. The panel has been meeting almost daily, under the chairmanship of Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, and is already immersed in a mass of technical and administrative details of a practical nature.