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Israel Accepts Egypt’s Explanation for Postponement of Autonomy Talks

Israeli officials have accepted at face value Egypt’s explanation of why it requested a postponement of the autonomy talks until next week. The negotiations, suspended since May 8, were to have been resumed in Cairo on Thursday according to the agreement reached in Washington last week between the chief negotiators of Israel, Egypt and the U.S.

The first order of business is to be the establishment of a subcommittee on legal affairs headed by Israeli Minister of Justice Shmuel Tamir and Egyptian Minister of State Butros Ghali. But Egypt informed Israel and the U.S. over the weekend that Ghali would be unable to attend the sessions beginning July 10 for technical reasons. The Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that the talks would be resumed in Cairo early next week.

Officials here took their cue from Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir who is not questioning Egypt’s explanation. Nevertheless, there is a strong feeling among the Israeli negotiators that Egypt is dragging its feet in the autonomy negotiations with a view to prolonging them until the American Presidential elections next November. According to these officials, Cairo’s unhurried approach is in contrast to the U.S. desire to move the talks ahead at a faster pace in order to achieve some tangible progress toward an agreement by Election Day.

Against that background, Israeli officials do not see Egypt resorting to so simple a play as postponing the resumption date of the autonomy talks by a few days when Cairo is capable of more subtle and sophisticated methods to slow down the talks.

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