TEL AVIV (Nov. 13)
Premier Menachem Begin returned from his visit to the U.S. and Canada this morning with a firm pledge that Israel would adhere to the letter of the Camp David agreements. However, he said, the Egyptians have stiffened their position and their new demands are not in accordance with the agreements reached at Camp David and signed by himself and President Anwar Sadat at the White House on Sept. 17.
Begin did not agree with Sadat that the peace treaty talks in Washington are stalled but acknowledged that difficulties have arisen which he blamed on the Egyptians. He had little to say about his meeting with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at Kennedy Airport in New York last night shortly before he emplaned for home.
Begin told reporters that they had discussed problems related to the Washington peace talks and the subject of autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But no conclusions were reached, he said.
SPECIAL CABINET MEETINGS SCHEDULED
Begin returned to the usual warm welcome by Cabinet members and other dignitaries. But despite the handshakes and embraces, the red carpet and ceremonial fanfare, there was a sense of uneasiness if not gloom. The Premier, in fact, brought home little that was encouraging. He had with him Egypt’s latest demands which he had been expected to present to the Cabinet at a special meeting tomorrow along with his report on his talks with American and Canadian leaders. (SEE SEPARATE STORY.)
But, Begin decided on his arrival here today to cancel tomorrow’s Cabinet session. The informed speculation was that he still expected further developments in Washington over the next 24 hours that would provide a more detailed basis for the debate and decisions facing the Cabinet. The Cabinet will convene Thursday for what most observers believe will be a crucial session. It will be attended by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, Israel’s chief negotiators in Washington.
LINKAGE AND AUTONOMY ISSUES
Begin devoted considerable time at his airport press conference this morning to explaining the principle of “linkage” which has become the chief obstacle in the way of a treaty with Egypt. He said that at Camp David, Israel and Egypt agreed to negotiate towards a peace treaty.
“This is a solemn undertaking by both sides,” he said. “The word ‘linkage’ is artificial and has no meaning. Of course there is a connection between the Israeli-Egyptian treaty and the overall agreement. But this is a connection of continuity. After we complete the negotiations with the Egyptians and sign a peace agreement we shall start negotiations with other neighbors too, as to the problem of autonomy,”
Begin said that “autonomy is a separate and difficult question which will need a special discussion. Therefore, there can be no timetable (as demanded by Egypt last week) set for that. However, we can start in a short time after the conclusion of the Israeli-Egyptian agreement, the discussion on autonomy as set forth in the Camp David agreement and whatever is in that agreement we shall carry out. We shall stand by the agreement we have signed.”
Aides to the Premier confided to several reporters that Israel would suggest that the peace talks be shifted from Washington to a site in either Israel or Egypt so that the government will have closer control over what transpires and will be able to react and make decisions more swiftly. Beersheba in the Negev or El Arish in northern Sinai were suggested as possible sites.