WASHINGTON (Oct. 17)
President Carter was due to meet at the White House late this afternoon with the leaders of the Israeli and Egyptian delegations, in separate sessions that will mark his first personal involvement in the current talks here aimed at an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and furtherance of the Camp David frameworks for a settlement of the West Bank and Gaza Strip issues.
In making the announcement, White House spokesman Rex Granum said the sessions “would give the President on opportunity to get a first hand report” and “to review the progress of the talks” as well as “the remaining outstanding issues.” Granum emphasized that the President’s involvement should not be regarded as mediation because the talks between the Israeli, Egyptian and American delegations at Blair House and at the hotel where the Israelis and Egyptians are quartered are going well.
Carter’s meeting with the Israeli leaders, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, and with the chief Egyptian negotiators, Defense Minister Kamal Hassan Ali and Acting Foreign Minister Boutros Ghali, was apparently arranged only this morning.
George Sherman, of the State Department, who is the official spokesman for the Blair House talks, told reporters that the White House meetings were “mutually agreed” and that “all sides agreed that it was a good time for the President to review the conference thus for.”
SPECULATION ARISES OVER TALKS
Nevertheless, speculation arose immediately that a problem has developed, not over an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty but over Egypt’s insistence that the treaty be tied to further Israeli concessions on the West Bank and Gaza. Observers suggested that if the President merely required a review of the Blair House talks to date, he could have met with the Israelis and Egyptians together.
Moreover, they said, the American specialists doubtlessly will provide the White House with full details of developments since the Israeli-Egyptian talks began last Thursday. Speculation was heightened by reports from Jerusalem that Premier Menachem Begin convened a special session of the Israeli Knesset this morning.
(Begin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel and Egypt have agreed to arbitrate any dispute that may arise from the proposed peace treaty. He noted that he did not anticipate any disputes. However, he added, “Should any dispute arise from the proposed treaty in the future, a joint committee consisting of representatives agreed by both countries will arbitrate a settlement.”)
DAYAN INDICATES PROBLEM IN THE TALKS
After a 90-minute meeting with Carter this afternoon, Dayan, speaking for the Israeli delegation, indicated that a problem had developed in the Israeli-Egyptian talks and that Carter was asked
Asked what the sticking points were, Dayan replied, “That, we told the President.” Asked if there was an insurmountable obstacle, the Israeli Foreign Minister said, “I am trying not to answer.” Then he made a plea to the media: “Please help us. We all want the negotiations to succeed. The best way to do it is quietly. There’s no one more qualified to help us than the President of the United States. So let him do his job.”
Carter was accompanied at the meeting with the Israelis by his top advisors, including Vice President Walter Mondale. Dayan and Weizman were accompanied by Meir Rosenne, legal advisor to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Eli Rubinstein, assistant director general of the Foreign Ministry and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Simcha Dinitz.
In a photo-taking session with the Egyptian delegation following his meeting with the Israelis, Carter turned toward the media representatives watching and said, “These meetings do not imply any particular problem.” He said he just wanted to review the situation.
JERUSALEM SEEN AS STICKING POINT
A major difficulty according to some reports, is that the future of Jerusalem has proved to be a special sticking point in the Israeli-Egyptian talks. In the exchange of letters between Carter, Begin and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt after the Camp David summit conference last month differences were disclosed by the three principals on their views regarding Jerusalem.
Egypt insisted on full Arab sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Israel affirmed that unified Jerusalem will always remain its capital. Carter’s letter referred to statements by the U.S. at the United Nations in 1967 and 1969 that the U.S. did not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem but left the future of the city undetermined.
Some observers here have noted a subtle shift in the U.S. position that would indicate an American leaning toward the Arab perception eliminating Israeli control over East Jerusalem. In a Voice of America telecast last week, the White House specialist on Middle Eastern affairs, William Quandt, referred to “occupied Jerusalem,” language that has not been used before by an authorized American spokesman, at least not publicly.
(According to a report today in Jerusalem in Davar from its Washington correspondent, the U.S. is canvassing a plan for the “Vaticanization” of parts of the Old City and other Arab sections of East Jerusalem. The paper said the idea was being noted by Assistant Secretary of State Harold Sounders during his present visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to Davar, apart from the “Vaticanization,” supervision would, in the U.S. plan, be vested in King Hussein of Jordan as “trustee” on behalf of the Arab and Moslem world.)
ANSWERS TO HUSSEIN DELAYED
Another development was the disclosure today that Sounders has not yet provided Hussein with the answers to the series of questions he put to the U.S. on the issues of the Palestinians and the West Bank within the Camp David frameworks. Neither the questions nor the answers have been shown to anyone, including the Israelis and Egyptians. Saunders arrived in Amman Sunday. But the State Department said today that Saunders “will be presenting them (the answers) to Hussein in the next few days but has not done so as yet.”
The State Department emphasized that there is “no special significance in the timing” of the presentation. But it appeared here that the delay was occasioned by the possibility that the American answers may be modified before they are given to Hussein who has been insisting on control of East Jerusalem. The U.S. is attempting to persuade Hussein to join the Israeli-Egyptian peace process, so for without success.