UMM HASHIBA (SINAI) (Apr. 25)
Israel and Egypt are formally at peace. At a brief but dignified and moving ceremony at the U.S. monitoring facility here late this afternoon two senior officials exchanged the instruments of ratification which formally brings the treaty into effect. Within one month the two parties are committed to begin negotiations on the next stage of the peace process — the Palestinian autonomy.
The exchange of instruments was delayed for almost three hours due to two last-minute hitches. A crowd of more than 300 — 75 invited dignitaries and 75 correspondents from each side — was kept waiting while Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Director General of Premier Menachem Begin’s office, and the senior Egyptian diplomat Saad Afra, and their legal aides, fought over the last disputed matters.
It was finally resolved that there will be another letter exchanged between the parties later this week that will allay the concerns of each side and ###ssert that the documents duly ratified and exchanged are indeed precisely those agreed upon at Washington and signed by Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on the White House lawn almost a month ago.Speaking for Egypt at today’s ceremony, Afra said the treaty would be “an important step in the search for a comprehensive peace in the area and for the attainment of the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its aspects.” He said Egypt was confident the process begun by the peace treaty “will create the momentum essential for the achievement of the global peace we all aspire for.”
Ben-Elissar said Israel saw the treaty as a first step “toward the comprehensive peace we are determined to pursue and, in God’s good time; to conclude …. With this, the treaty of peace comes into force. Let us thank God for the dawning of this day.” In Hebrew, Arabic and English, he added: “The war is over. Long live the peace.”
THE HITCHES THAT DELAYED THE EXCHANGE
The last-minute hitches that delayed the exchange of instruments were:
Egypt was concerned to ensure that the ratification applied to all the components of the treaty package — including the “joint letter” from Sadat and Begin to President Carter committing themselves to pursue the autonomy negotiations.
Israel was anxious about an Egyptian formulation in the Egyptian instrument of ratification which omitted the word “inhabitants” when referring to the West Bank autonomy. (Israel’s position is that the autonomy will be granted to the inhabitants of the territories, not to the territories as such.) The additional letter will confirm that neither side could or would stray from the precise treaty language signed in Washington.
The ceremony, though low key in that only officials and not Ministers were involved, and despite the long delay; was nevertheless memorable. For the first time Israeli and Egyptian honor guards stood side by side and presented arms together as the Egyptian and Israeli flags — and the United States and United Nations flags — were hoisted. Two military bands played the two anthems together, conducted once by the Egyptian bandmaster and once by the Israeli.
There was much good-spirited fraternizing between Egyptian and Israeli guests — many of whom are parliamentarians, high army officers and Yom Kippur War veterans. The 24-man honor guards and 40-member bands also laughed and joked together, although, as the last-minute negotiations protracted into hours, the Egyptians began to get more reserved and the officers instructed their men to keep apart from the Israelis.
With the difficulties overcome, however, the spirit of friendship quickly was restored and the brief parade passed off smoothly and smilingly. Samuel Lewis, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Hermann Eilts, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, represented the United States. Each of them, in his brief remarks, stressed the U.S. commitment to remain involved in the peace process, and Eilts dwelt on America’s intention to help secure the political peace by encouraging economic development.