Behind the Headlines Varied Motives Seen in Threat to Peace Talks Posed by Sadat
Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines Varied Motives Seen in Threat to Peace Talks Posed by Sadat

Download PDF for this date

Egypt’s break-off of negotiations on the autonomy talks appears intended more as a message of warning to Washington and a consolation note to the Arab world than as only another propaganda thrust at Israel, according to some analysts here. Egyptian fury is directed at Premier Menachem Begin of Israel, a forget which Cairo knows many in Washington and Europe approve or don’t mind. But just what President Anwar Sadat of Egypt expects to gain by his threat to torpedo the Camp David formulas is not yet clear. Several theories are suggested.

His timing of his third switch in four days last week, it is said, may be that he sees opportunities for him in the Western Europeans’ movement away from President Carter on economic sanctions against Iran and absence of solidarity on the Olympic boy- cott coupled with the low ride in his election campaign. If British Foreign Secretary Load Carrington can dilute sanctions and challenge Carter to act against Israel despite the election, it is argued, why can’t Sadat inform the President to force Israel on “Palestinian rights” or let his foreign policy center piece–Camp David–go into discard along with his re-election chances?

Another theory is that Sadat’s domestic troubles are causing him to divert his nation’s attention again towards “fanatics” in Israel while reassuring the Arab world that he shares its views. It is accepted here that Sadat’s conception is encompassed in the recent Cairo Radio domestic broadcast in Arabic that “obstinate” Begin stands for “no Palestinian state, no return of Jerusalem and no self-determination.”

Begin, Cairo Radio added, “doesn’t care if the U.S. loses Middle East oil or keeps it” or “if the West loses its cities in the region or keeps them.” Then comes the threat: “Egypt will lose nothing by discontinuing the negotiations …. What the Arabs accept today, they will not accept tomorrow and will reject the day after tomorrow. Our Arab brothers are now perhaps aware of the real position of Egypt which accepts peace and rejects surrender.”


Tied to this theory is the calculated Egyptian official arrogance towards Israel and Israelis. When Egypt’s Foreign Minister Boutros Gholi in Cairo explained Egypt’s breakoff to the media, he said he had notified U.S. Ambassador Alfred Atherton. Asked if he had also notified Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Gholi replied: “He can hear it on radio.” Although Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal was in Washington when Israeli Ambassador Ephraim Evron hosted the annual Israel Independence Day reception, he didn’t show up and instead sent his Embassy’s third-ranking official.

Sadat’s contention that Israel showed “bad faith” on the talks because of the legal measure introduced last week in the Knesset on Jerusalem, is seen as a “flimsy pretext.” Since 1967, Israel has adopted resolutions on Jerusalem. Even the State Department, which habitually favors Arab perceptions, couldn’t agree with him. It pointed out on successive days that the measure was by on opponent of the Begin government and has been referred to a Knesset committee. That nearly the entire Knesset approved reference is indicative of Israel’s feeling but, analysts observed, that has not been different at any time.

A major result of Sadat’s three switches in four days on the autonomy talks, some analysts observed, is that Americans may now be more understanding of what has been happening to Israelis in dealing with the Egyptians and why Israelis are so determined to preserve their security measures, including settlements. Analysts recalled that Americans became more acutely aware of terrorist tactics inflicted on Israel when American diplomats and other official personnel became hostages of terrorists in Iran.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund