U.S. Concerned That Egypt Might Break off Autonomy Talks if Israel Makes Jerusalem Unified Capital

The Carter Administration expressed today “logical concern” that Egypt would again break off the autonomy talks if the Knesset adopts legislation incorporating into Israel’s Basic Law that unified Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

At the same time, the Administration would not express criticism of Egypt’s harsh condemnation of Israel in the special session of the United Nations General Assembly where it supported and today voted for the resolution demanding Israel’s withdrawal from all the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. Nor would the Administration criticize UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim’s statement last. Friday favoring Palestinian self-determination including statehood and for the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in negotiations for a Middle East peace.

These developments followed a leaked report that Secretary of State Edmund Muskie indicated deep concern to President Carter and his Cabinet meeting yesterday at the White House that Israeli actions on Jerusalem and West European refusal to oppose the Arab resolution in the UN against Israel jeopardized the peace talks. In addition, in a CBS television interview this morning, Muskie indicated Egypt might walk out of the autonomy talks if the Knesset adopts the “Jerusalem Bill.”

However, Sate Department spokesman John Trattner later said that while that would be “a logical concern,” he did not believe Muskie had “first-hand knowledge” that Egypt would quit the talks.

This led observers to feel that Muskie was putting pressure on the Knesset by publicly hinting blame would fall an Israel if the talks were again suspended.

JEWISH LEADERS TO MEET WITH MUSKIE

Meanwhile, it was made known that seven or eight American Jewish communal leaders would lunch at the State Department with Muskie tomorrow at which time the Jerusalem issue, Trattner indicated, would be discussed. The meeting was arranged, according to a Jewish source here, as a first get-together with Muskie over a general Middle East agenda. Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, will head the group at the luncheon.

Replying to questions on the reported Muskie Cabinet discussion and the Knesset legislation, Trattner said that he would “not violate the confidentiality of Cabinet discussions” but that “the Secretary believes that any unilateral action which distracts from the autonomy talks, from the peace process now underway with respect to the Middle East is not helpful. He has said this a number of times and so have the rest of us.

Trattner added “that we believe the status of that city (Jerusalem) must be resolved in future negotiations. The Secretary believes this as well. We are opposed to any unilateral action seeking to change the status of Jerusalem outside the negotiation framework for those negotiations.”

When Trattner was asked whether Egypt told the United States it would pull out of the talks if the Knesset adopted the “Jerusalem Bill,” he replied “I am not aware that they have.” Pressed further on his statement about “logical fear” that Egypt might quit the talks. Trattner said. “I am not saying it is logical or illogical. It would be a logical concern, however. That is why we don’t like such unilateral action, because it tends to aggravate and irritate the peace process as it now exists.”

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