WASHINGTON (Dec. 19)
Sol Linowitz, President Carter’s special Ambassador to the Middle East, said today following his return from initial talks in Jerusalem and Cairo, that Egypt and Israel have reached “significant measures of agreement” which have not “previously surfaced” and that “a reasonable possibility” exists that they may reach an autonomy settlement by May I, 1980. Previously, there had been pessimism that the May deadline, set in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, was achievable.
Linowitz acknowledged that “the hard issues” such as land, water and security problems “require much more negotiations.” But, he pointed out, agreement has been reached on such measures as taxation, transportation, health “most aspects” of education, industrialization and some aspects of agriculture. The May date, he said, was looked on as “unachievable and not to be taken seriously.” But, he found “real attention is focussed on May Day to make it a realistic goal.”
He pointed to the “renewed commitment” by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Premier Menachem Begin of Israel to the Camp David accords and their mutual respect for each other, plus, “real awareness” by them of each other’s problems, needs and aspirations.
IRANIAN CRISIS HAS NOT INTERFERED
Appearing at a State Department press conference five days after his return, last Thursday night, from a six-day visit to the Middle East, Linowitz said that the Iranian crisis has “not interfered in any way” with the negotiations and their “pace” is “precisely as scheduled.”
However, he said, “it would not be realistic” to think that it (the Iranian crisis) will not intrude since “Iran hovers over everything in the area” and “what the ultimate fallout in the Moslem area generally” will be as to “what took place in Iran and indeed, in Mecca.” Linowitz said that “for the moment” those developments have not had an impact on the negotiations. “But everyone is conscious of what is going on he said.
ISSUE OF THE PALESTINIANS
Asked if Egypt and Israel do agree by May, would other Arabs join the talks, Linowitz replied, “If I were a Palestinian on the West Bank and Gaza, I don’t think I would be interested” in the autonomy proposals thus tar, since “I would ask, ‘what’s in it for me’, “and what does autonomy mean? “However, if we do flesh out this concept, if we show the Palestinians this is what you will be able to carry out, “Linowitz said, then he would hope other Arabs would join.
“The challenge is to us, “he said, to present a “creditable, viable system” that would make it palatable to the Palestinians. Asked if the U.S. is preparing a set of viable proposals, Linowitz replied, “No, we are putting forth ideas.”
He was also asked whether, in view of the fact that Jerusalem is a unified city and the capital of Israel, it is the “challenge” or Israel to give up East Jerusalem or permit the inhabitants of East Jerusalem to vote in the West Bank elections. The envoy replied to the reporter, “I am not going to let define the issues.”
Linowitz also declined to define the U.S. position on the “legitimate rights” of Palestinians and “self determination for them. But he firmly supported the Camp David frameworks and the U.S. search for a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East “I would not change the Camp David accords, “he said. Asked if the Camp David accords are “an obstacle” to U.S. policy, he replied, “No, I haven’t found that at all.”
He said, however, that the U.S. would take “a hard look” at its Middle East interests. “A real effort” should be made to have Jordan’s King Hussein enter the talks; he said, and hoped to meet with him to discuss the issue at length. No date was mentioned.