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Cabinet Takes Secret Decisions on Talks with Atherton

The Cabinet took a series of decisions today regarding the issues involved in U.S. special envoy Alfred. Atherton’s current mission — but resolved not to publish them in advance of Atherton’s bringing them personally to the knowledge of Egypt’s leaders. The U.S. envoy is to fly to Cairo tomorrow after five days of talks here in Israel, to discuss American and Israeli ideas on Articles IV and VI of the draft peace treaty with top Egyptian officials.

The envoy met for a final working session this evening with Israeli diplomats and legal experts under Premier Menachem Begin’s political aide, Dr. Eliahu Ben-Elissar. Atherton was also expected to confer with Begin himself, at least by telephone, before leaving the country.

On the Cabinet table today was the text of a proposed draft letter, hammered out during the Atherton talks here and further refined in contacts between Atherton and Washington, on Article VI, paragraph 5 (the “priority of obligations” clause).

SUGGESTION REGARDING THE LETTER

The U.S. is suggesting that this letter, from America to Israel, be part of the entire treaty package, alongside the earlier U.S. interpretative letter to Egypt on Article VI, paragraph. 5 Israel rejected, and still rejects, that interpretative letter to Egypt, on the grounds that it did not recognize the priority of the peace treaty over Egypt’s inter-Arab defense commitments.

The new U.S. draft letter to Israel apparently seeks to clarify the U.S. view that Egypt’s intervention on the side of another Arab state against Israel would be legitimate only if Israel had launched a blatantly unprovoked attack on the Arab state.

The Cabinet heard from Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan of the substantive progress made by the Atherton-Ben-Elissar working group on Article IV (the “review” clause) — and of the lack of progress on Article VI, paragraph 5 (the provision which severs the treaty from any operative linkage to the Camp David “framework for peace” on the Palestinian autonomy).

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