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Tension Between Egypt, Israel Seems to Have Been Eased

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The bitterness between Israel and Egypt over the “priority of obligations” issue that soured the post-treaty signing atmosphere last week seems to have died down, with both sides plainly determined to “put a lid” on it. Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil, whose statements regarding Egypt’s right to aid Syria in an attack on the occupied Golan Heights had triggered the row, was conciliatory in an interview an Israeli television last night. He said he was certain both sides intended to carry out their obligations under the treaty to the letter.

The exchange of instruments of ratification has now been set for early this week at the U.S. electronic monitoring facility at Umm Hashiba. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Premier Menachem Begin’s top aide, will represent Israel and the U.S. Ambassador to Cairo Herma### Lilts will be there for Washington. Egypt has not yet named its delegate.

By mutual consent, it has been decided to keep this event “low-key.” Original plans for Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Egypt’s Minister of State Boutros Ghali to be present have been scrapped. The scheduled transfer of El Arish to Egypt–the first tangible move under the treaty — is still set for the end of May and will be the occasion for another summit meeting between Begin and President Anwar Sadat.

BEGIN USES ‘HOT LINE’

Begin used his newly installed “hot line” to Sadat for the first time last week as part of the effort to cool the dispute over the priority of obligations issue. The conversation was reportedly convivial, although Begin made the point firmly that Israel could not accept Khalil’s interpretation. According to the Israeli reading of Article VI paragraph 5 of the treaty, Egypt would be barred from intervening in any war triggered by an attack upon Israel by an Arab state.

Khalil explained that if Israel refused to negotiate over the Golan with Syria on the basis of the Sinai solution meaning total withdrawal for full peace, and if, then, Syria attacked the Golan in a “defensive action,” Egypt would be bound to aid her under their mutual defense pact Both Begin and Dayan fired off sharp protests to the U.S. over the Egyptian Premier’s remarks. But, having made their point forcefully and publicly, they do not seem inclined now to pursue the issue further.

Meanwhile, Israel has been even more forceful in its contacts with the U.S. over the permission granted a top Palestine Liberation Organization official, Shafik Al-Hout to visit the U.S. meet with the press there and make public appearances at several leading universities. There was a sharp conversation last Wednesday between Begin and U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, who was summoned to the Premier’s home to hear Israel’s views on this matter.

The Israeli argument is that moderate forces on the West Bank cannot be expected to join the projected autonomy negotiations if they see the U.S. wooing the PLO in this way.

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