WASHINGTON (May. 22)
A senior State Department official gave a veiled warning to the Knesset today not to vote into law proposed legislation that would establish unified Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The legislation, referred by the Knesset to committee a week ago with only five dissenting votes, was presented by the ultra-nationalist Tehiya opposition faction.
President Anwar Sodat of Egypt cited it when he broke off the autonomy negotiations with Israel on May 15. The Islamic foreign ministers, meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan yesterday, called on the United Nations Security Council to block Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.
While the State Department last week soft-pedal its normal opposition to Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem and Secretary of State Edmund Muskie did not mention it at his first press conference Tuesday, the issue re-emerged here yesterday when Mustapha Khalil, Egypt’s Prime Minister until last week, told reporters that the Knesset’s action was an affront to Egypt.
Asked to comment on that remark by Khalil who is here an a private visit, reportedly for medical treatment, the State Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, said today, “Our position has been clearly expressed publicly before” about Jerusalem.
GOOD-WILL GESTURE TO EGYPT
However, a senior State Department official close to Muskie said afterwards. “The introduction of disturbing elements like publication of disturbing stories, is only ultimately destabilizing and disturbing if they turn out to be true or if the reality caused by the introduction by minority parties of a motion is expressed finally by adoption by the Knesset. There is nothing helpful about this and we have so stated it.”
This comment was seen by some as another good-will gesture to Egypt. It came only a few hours before the arrival in Washington of Egypt’s Vice President Hosni Mubarak who is to deliver a letter from President Sodat to President Carter at the White House tomorrow. The letter is described as an “important message” on the autonomy talks.
In his scheduled two-day stay, Mubarak will also meet with Muskie, with special Ambassador Sol Linowitz, the U.S. representative to the autonomy talks, and with Defense Secretory Harold Brown. The latter meeting is believed connected with Egypt’s request for U.S. military aid for the rapid build-up of its armed forces. The U.S. has already pledged 54 billion in arms to Egypt over the next five years.
Meanwhile, Carter welcomed Israel’s decision to allow two West Bank Arab families to return to their homes after they were banished to an unused refugee comp in the Dead Sea valley last week following stoning incidents in which family members allegedly participated.