HAIFA (Sep. 5)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat predicted today the beginning of an agreement on Jerusalem by the end of the year as well as the participation of other Arab states in the peace-making process. His statement came at a joint press conference with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin following their meeting this morning at which Begin announced agreements had been achieved on a peace-keeping force in Sinai, oil, Israeli withdrawal and the process of normalization.
But it appeared after their meetings yesterday and today the Israeli and Egyptian leaders were still apart on the question of autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Sadat stressed at a state banquet last night that a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East requires “a just settlement for the Palestinian people.”
At the joint press conference today Sadat said that “if we don’t reach by the end of this year the final touch (on Jerusalem), we will be leaping a very big step toward this.” He stressed that “Jerusalem is a very sensitive matter for members of all three religions, and we need more time and careful study on the whole thing. But some 800 million Moslems are looking toward Arab Jerusalem and this must be taken into account.”
Sadat said that East Jerusalem should be included in the autonomy plan. But Begin immediately interjected, “Jerusalem is the indivisible capital of Israel.”
The Egyptian leader also said he believed that the other Arab countries would join the peace talks. “I anticipate that by the end of this year” he said. Sadat stressed that all his efforts were aimed at a comprehensive settlement. “Why did I come to Haifa?” he said. “I didn’t come just to settle differences, but rather to continue the process of normalization and continue discussions for the achievement of a comprehensive settlement.”
FOUR POINTS OF AGREEMENT REACHED
While Begin also expressed the need for a comprehensive agreement, he emphasized the four points of agreement that have been achieved here. He said Israel and Egypt will work out between themselves the issue of a peace-keeping force in the Sinai until Israel and the United States can settle their dispute over the issue. Israel has refused to accept the U.S. proposal that the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) be sent into the area to replace the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) whose mandate has not been renewed by the UN Security Council.
Begin said that the St. Katerina area in Sinai will be returned to Egypt two months earlier than scheduled by the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement so that Sadat can conduct a prayer service on Mount Sinai on Nov. 19, the second anniversary of his historic 1977 trip to Jerusalem.
A third issue Begin said there was an agreement on is oil. “We have agreed on the quantity to be supplied Israel, but several details are still open for negotiations by the (oil) ministers of our two countries,” Begin said. Presumably these details center on the price of the oil.
Begin said that the fourth point of agreement was that “the normalization will continue in accordance with that stipulated in the agreements between our two countries.” This includes tourism and the use of the air and land corridors between the two countries, he said.
ISSUE OF AUTONOMY
On the question of autonomy, Begin noted that “if we are as faithful to the Camp David agreements as we are to the peace treaty, there is no doubt that we can settle this issue as well.” Sadat agreed, observing that “we cannot or should not decide the fate of the Palestinians. They should decide with us.”
Asked by a reporter if Israel would enter into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization if the PLO were to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist, Begin replied: “That, my friend, is a very hypothetical question. As it is, this organization is both in aim and matter a genocidal organization. And it is significant that there was no mention of the PLO at Camp David because of the organization’s character.”
The two leaders mentioned their decision to continue meeting on both the summit and ministerial levels in the near future, and’ Sadat publicly extended an invitation to the Israeli Premier to come to Egypt. It is expected that this visit will take place in the near future in order to maintain the momentum of the peace process.
Following his initial meeting with Begin, Sadat characterized the encounter as successful and said that the friendship between Israel and Egypt, which should last forever, need not be tainted by any differences of opinion which separated them at present. Begin, in-turn, said that his hour-long talk with Sadat had been “very good, perhaps the best encounter I have had yet with him.”
However, despite the outward signs of agreement, the two leaders seemed as far apart today as they were prior to Sadat’s arrival in Haifa. Egyptian sources said that Sadat wants very much to return to Egypt with some real progress behind him and not just general declarations about peace. In that respect, the sources added, Israel is not being sensitive enough about Egypt’s image in the Arab world.
SEEKS JUST SOLUTION FOR PALESTINIAN PROBLEM
This was indirectly alluded to by Sadat in his address to some 400 guests assembled at a state dinner at the Dan Carmel Hotel last night when he called for a “just solution to the Palestinian problem.” The Egyptian leader declared:
“It is with a (comprehensive settlement) in mind that we shape our determination to pave the way for a just settlement to the Palestinian problem which is heart and core of the entire conflict. The realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people is not incompatible with Israel’s interests. It is the only guarantee for coexistence. It is a prerequisite to a world of harmony and tranquility for all of us.”
Sadat also noted that both sides need to approach the task of peace with a sense of history and optimism. “I am an optimist by nature,” he observed. “I pay no attention to the voices of defeat and pessimism. I am never deterred by the size of the challenge.”
Noting that it would be an historical mistake to think of what someone gave, the other got,” Sadat cautioned that both sides should never lose sight of their common goal and should “think and move in terms of what we all can do to make the Middle East a zone of happiness and fulfillment.”