JERUSALEM (Dec. 4)
Premier Menachem Begin consulted with members of his Cabinet and other senior officials today on his reply to President Anwar Sadat’s letter received here last week which stated Egypt’s position on the resumption of peace talks. Although the contents of Sadat’s letter and of Begin’s reply will not be made public, by agreement between the two countries, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan described Sadat’s letter as “very difficult” and said he did not see any point to resuming negotiations at present.
This morning, Begin summoned Dayan, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich and Interior Minister Yosef Burg to discuss his reply to Sadat. They were joined by Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir.
It was learned that Begin’s letter will stress that Israel is not willing to introduce any changes in the draft peace treaty but was prepared to negotiate the wording of letters to be exchanged between Israel and Egypt on the autonomy issue. Those letters would supplement a signed peace treaty.
EXPECTED TO REJECT U.S. COMPROMISE
Begin was expected to reject the American compromise proposal calling for elections on the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the end of 1979. Israel will accept no time frame for implementing the autonomy program. The letter is expected to recall the various stages of the peace negotiations and stress the many concessions Israel has already made. Like Sadat’s letter, Begin’s is expected to be polite but tough.
Although the contents of Sadat’s letter were not disclosed, it was learned that the Egyptian leader stood by his demands to delete Article VI of the draft treaty which would give the Israeli-Egyptian agreement precedence over any past agreements Egypt has signed with other Arab countries aimed against Israel. He also insisted on a target date for the autonomy elections, his demand for an Egyptian administrative presence and local police force in the Gaza Strip and an exact timetable for Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai.
Circles here said that there is little hope for an early conclusion of a peace treaty with Egypt. In some quarters, Sadat’s letter was seen as an attempt to prepare an alibi for Egypt should the peace talks be broken off.