JERUSALEM (Mar. 11)
The absence of specific information officially disclosed is frustrating to the point where reporters covering President Carter’s talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin believe the event is journalistically more frustrating than the news blackout at the 17 day summit conference at Camp David in September.
Rumors were plentiful here and journalistic pundits with access to know ledgeable sources reported so-called developments, both optimistic and pessimistic. But the fact was that late today the prime conclusion of success or failure or even compromise of some sort was nowhere in evidence.
The only tangible information was the statement last night by Yitzhak Modai, the Israeli Minister of Energy and Infrastructure and Communications, that “it is unthinkable that the supply of oil not be ensured within the framework of this agreement.”
In an interview, Modai was asked why oil from Egypt and not from other sources was available if the United States assures Israel of such supplies. Modai replied, “Because in Egypt, in the region we are about to return to Egyptian sovereignty, we discovered oil, we developed a field. There are at present no prior commitments regarding the oil pumped from that field. I shall consider refusal to supply at least oil from that source to Israel as outright discrimination, not only a matter of partiality. How can the signing of the peace treaty be accompanied by a first act of discrimination?.
The U.S. has said that it will honor its commitment in the 1975 Sinai agreement that it will supply Israel with oil if other sources are unavailable to it.
GROPING IN THE DORK
Apart from disclosing the hours spent in discussion today and the separate meetings of the two delegations, Carter’s spokesmen, who are usually prepared to offer some assistance, also were unable to provide any information.
Even without the seclusion of Camp, David, reporters complained that “we are pretty much groping in the dork,” Dan. Pattir, the Premier’s press officer, acknowledged that “this is true.” A reporter asked Pattir for a characterization of Begin’s feelings after his meeting with Carter last night “or is this also part of the fog?” Pattir replied, “This is also part of the fog” because he “must refrain” from assessing Begin’s feelings about the talks.
One report that attracted attention on Israel Television was that Hamilton Jordan, Carter’s chief political strategist, told an Israeli official that Israel ultimately would have to accede to the autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza or Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s terms Sadat has been insisting on a specific timetable linking the Israeli Egyptian treaty with autonomy and Carter supported this position last December.