EL ARISH (May. 6)
Hundreds of residents of this capital of the Sinai peninsula gave an enthusiastic welcome today to a bus load of Egyptian journalists who come to cover the second session of the Egyptian-Israeli joint military committee which is discussing the Israeli withdrawal from the city.
Although President Anwar Sadat will not arrive here until May 25 for the official formal return of the town to Egypt, the cheers were directed at him. The streets were decorated with Egyptian flogs. The only Israeli flags were those flying from the military government’s buildings.
The warm reception to the 50-odd correspondents of the Egyptian media overshadowed the actual proceedings between the Israeli and Egyptian negotiating teams. The talks were mainly technical — getting down to the details of the agreed formulas, such as the demarcation of the new border line, the handing over of military installations and the preparation of the El Arish civil air field so that it can be used by the Egyptians beginning May 27.
The co-chairmen of the committee, Brig. Gen. Safih A-Din of Egypt and Gen. Dov Sion of Israel, reached an unwritten understanding over the famous laundromat in the Israeli village of Neot Sinai. The laundromat, the main source of income for the Israeli settlement, will be outside the Egyptian lines after the town is handed over to the Egyptians.
The understanding was that for the next three years, until the Israelis withdraw from Neot Sinai, the laundromat workers will be permitted to cross the Egyptian lines to continue to work as usual. The officers also discussed the problem of securing water supply for the Israeli soldiers after Israel hands over water sources in the area.
AMIABLE TALKS HELD
“Essentially the agreements were reached already as part of the peace agreement, “Sion told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Therefore, there were no problems, and the talks took place amiably. ” His Egyptian colleague nodded in agreement, repeatedly quoting Sadat to stress the point of peace. Sadat was the hero of the day. Sion in his introductory presentation to the talks mentioned that Israel held the town for 12 years. “never with the intention of keeping it, until President Sadat came to us and gave us his hand.”
After a short ceremonial, the two delegations divided into a number of working groups to discuss the various issues to be resolved. The Egyptian journalists boarded a bus for a tour of the town, but as soon as it was seen on the main street it was surrounded by hundreds of local residents waving Egyptian flags, singing the Egyptian anthem and chanting pro-Sadat slogans.
“There is no God but Allah, and Sadat is his beloved,” they shouted. A young man with tears in his eyes, leaned into a bus window to hug and kiss Egyptian journalists.
Most of the residents of EI Arish are of Egyptian origin but the city has a 10 percent minority of Palestinian origin. To judge by the warm reception given to the Egyptian journalists, there is a consensus of approval for the renewed Egyptian rule.