TEL AVIV (Dec. 20)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman has ordered a halt in the removal of nonessential material from the Sinai in view of the stalemate in the Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations. The equipment, which is not essential for the defense and maintenance of the forces in the Sinai, was being removed to make the actual evacuation of troops easier once a peace treaty is signed.
The Camp David agreement calls for the first stage of the Israeli evacuation to a line running roughly from El Arish in the north to south of Sharm el-Sheikh to take place within nine months after the treaty is signed. Among the equipment being brought back were large amounts of captured Egyptian material ranging back to the Six-Day War and some housing units.
Work, meanwhile, is continuing on fortifying the new defense line that will be created by the first stage of withdrawal. But there is a possibility that this work may be discontinued too until negotiations resume.
Meanwhile, Israel has opened another oil well in the Sinai, the Alma Six, and it now produces some 25,000 barrels of oil a day. Although the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement will require that the oil fields be returned to Egypt, Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai and Israeli oil experts believe that it is worthwhile investing more money in oil production. They note that even if the oil wells go to Egypt in nine months they will have paid for themselves in the oil produced in the meantime.