Autonomy Talks Continue Informally

Israeli, Egyptian and U.S. negotiators continued to meet on an “informal” basis in the autonomy talks at Herzliya today after Israel flatly rejected an Egyptian proposal for security on the West Bank which even the American delegates appeared to view as extreme. The U.S., however, Is making a strong effort to counteract “crisis talk” and what it regards as undue pessimism over the prospects of a successful outcome of the negotiations.

American sources said the very fact that Israel has agreed to discuss the security issue was itself a sign of important progress. Israel has not agreed to Egypt’s demand for a special subcommittee to study its security requirements, under the joint chairmen ship of the Israeli and Egyptian defense ministers. But it did not object when the chief Egyptian negotiator, Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil, insisted that security be the subject of yesterday’s informal plenary session.

This is viewed at a procedural advance. But the proposal by Egypt’s Defense Minister Kamal Hassan Ali at yesterday’s session is totally unacceptable to Israel. Premier Menachem Begin discussed it last night with the chief Israeli negotiator, Interior Minister Yosef Burg. He sent Burg back to the talks with strict instructions to stand firm against the Egyptian proposal.

The proposal envisioned a predominant role for the Palestinian self-governing authority not only in internal security but in the deployment of Israeli forces in the territories once autonomy goes into effect.

The Camp David accords call for an Israeli withdrawal to “specified security locations.” The Egyptian plan would allow the self-governing authority to determine where those locations would be and would also require the authority’s consent to Israeli troop movements to and from the “specified locations.”

The Egyptian plan reportedly drew unfavorable reactions from the U.S. delegation. The Americans, in fact, seemed taken aback by its extreme nature although they tended to regard the plan as more of a tactical posture than a final position.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir and other members of the Israeli negotiating team claimed last night that Egypt’s tough demands seemed to indicate that Cairo deliberately wants to drag out the negotiations until after the American Presidential elections next November.

The Egyptians denied this they insisted that, on the contrary, the talks most produce a significant break through by the May 26 target date in order to retain any vestige of credibility in the eyes of the world and of the Palestinians themselves.

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