JERUSALEM (Dec. 20)
Egypt is thinking in terms of a staff of five diplomats for its embassy in Tel Aviv, considerably less than Israel would like to send to Cairo. Informed sources who disclosed this today said Israel need not hold inflexibly to the principle of reciprocity. But, on the other hand, there must be some parallelism in the size of the two legations, due to open Jan. 26, 1980. The exchange of ambassadors is scheduled for Feb. 26.
Israel, apparently, hoped for larger embassies, in the order of 12-15 diplomats in each. A five-diplomat Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv would be a medium-size-legation in Israeli terms, something on the level of the Japanese. It would be in keeping with a trend detected by Israelis visiting Cairo this week — of trying to keep the opening of normal relations low-key rather than jubilantly ceremonial.
Discussions between Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butros Ghali and two top Israeli officials, Eliahu Ben-Elissar and Yosef Ciechanover, have resulted in the decision to set up ” technical teams”, which will prepare, during the weeks ahead, such practical matters as the opening of direct telephone and telex lines on Jan. 26, as provided by the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Still uncertain is how the open borders principle will operate. The two sides will have to decide whether tourists will be able to class Sinai in their own cars or whether they will have to switch to buses operated by each host country.
Similarly, there is apparently no decision yet on the opening of a direct air link. The treaty calls for open air links too after Jan. 26, but, in another provision, it calls for negotiations to begin within six months of that date for a civil aviation agreement.
PLEASED BY RECEPTION IN CAIRO
Despite these uncertainties, Ben-Elissar, who is Israel’s unofficial Ambassador-designate to Egypt, returned from Cairo apparently well pleased He was received by Egyptian officials as the official Ambassador-designate and further developed his already warm relations with same of President Anwar Sadat’s closest aides into what he called “real friendship.”
Ben-Elissar took his wife, Nitza, with him for her first view of the city that will be her home in the years ahead. The couple met socially with some of the top echelon of Cairo society at private dinner parties given in their ho nor.
Ben-Elissar, with other aides of Premier Menachem Begin, flew to Aswan to check arrangements for the three-day Begin-Sadat summit due to be held there Jan. 7-10. He said he found everything more-than satisfactory.
ISSUES AT JANUARY SUMMIT
It will be at that summit, it seems, that key issues presently unresolved in the. ongoing autonomy talks may be advanced. The “plenary” round of the talks held at the Mena House Hotel in Cairo yesterday does not seem to have produced any major leap forward. The problematic issue of Jerusalem — the voting rights of Arab Jerusalemites in the autonomy elections — is still a major obstacle to concluding arrangements for the elections. And on the complex of issues labeled “powers and responsibilities” of the projected “self-governing authority (Administrative Council),” the gaps seemed as wide as ever.
The plenary instructed the “working groups” to prepare a “model” of an autonomy scheme, but many observers here feel this is a way of virtually marking time — or inching forward without coming to grief — pending the top-level summit next month where the two national leaders will have to grapple with the really difficult problems.