JERUSALEM (Dec. 27)
There were hints today in Jerusalem and Cairo that the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations will resume soon. Premier Menachem Begin stressed last night that Israel is ready to continue the talks and is willing to negotiate on Egypt’s demands concerning self-rule for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, in Cairo today, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said that while he has not received an invitation to new talks “things will be clear over the next two days.” At the same time, Egypt’s Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported from Washington that there was a possibility of a second meeting between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil in either Washington or a European capital.
Sadat, speaking to reporters following a meeting of his ruling National Democratic Party’s Parliamentary Committee, said the meeting between the three in Brussels last weekend was useful. “A new round of talks stand a good chance, “he said.
Begin’s comments were made in an address to members of the Soldiers Welfare Association. He said that Israel would be willing to discuss the autonomy issue and even the Egyptian demand for reviewing the peace treaty although this would have to be a general statement since Israel will never agree to setting the review date at five years as the Egyptians want.
ISRAEL WAS READY TO SIGN BY DEC. 17
But Begin said that Israel could not agree to a timetable for the implementation of the self-rule plan for the West Bank and Gaza because it did not depend on Israel alone. He noted that Israel has invited Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to join the peace talks but so far they have refused. “Can we force them to come?” he asked.
Begin again stressed that Israel was ready to sign the proposed peace treaty by President Carter’s original deadline of Dec. 17. “We were ready to sign it much before that date,” he declared. He said Israel was ready to continue the negotiations, but it refuses to sign an empty treaty that does not bring peace.
MENA’s report from Washington said expectations for new talks between Vance, Dayan and Khalil were based on the deliberations of the Israeli Cabinet “which are making progress at present.”
DAYAN UNDER FIRE ON COMPROMISE
Meanwhile, the Cabinet is expected to continue its search for ways to resume negotiations with Egypt when it meets for its regular weekly session next Sunday. No decisions were reached at yesterday’s special meeting of the Cabinet, convened by Begin to hear Dayan’s report of his talks with Vance in Brussels over the weekend.
Dayan reportedly came under fire from some of his colleagues for having said publicly on his return from Brussels that Israel and Egypt both should make compromises aimed at renewing the peace talks. Absorption Minister David Levy, Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Nisim and several others contended that Dayan’s remarks were tactically unwise and substantively unwarranted.
They claimed that Israel’s position, rejecting Egypt’s latest proposals, had gained a fairly good reception by the American public, was strongly endorsed by U.S. Jews and was accepted by public opinion at home. They complained that Dayan’s statement would only raise doubts and second thoughts among commentators and supporters of the government.
Aides to the Foreign Minister said last night that he was confident that his recommendations would be accepted by the Cabinet despite the criticism by some ministers. They stressed he was not urging any major shift in the substance of Israel’s position and none at all on the crucial Article VI of the treaty draft, the priority of obligations clause. All Dayan seeks, the aides said, is a more positive and forthcoming statement of Israel’s position, coupled with a new expression of readiness to resume the talks with Egypt on the various issues in dispute.