JERUSALEM (Sep. 1)
U.S. special envoy Sol Linowitz is understood to have forcefully urged Premier Menachem Begin not to go ahead with his plan to move the Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet room to East Jerusalem.
In a three-hour tete-a-tete today, the envoy is believed to have argued with Begin that this move, or the annexation of the Golan Heights (a proposal to that effect is under discussion among Likud and Labor Knesseters) would both be very severe blows indeed to the chance of peace.
Linowitz, who arrived here last night, is also understood to feel that if the autonomy talks cannot be resumed soon, the Comp David process is in danger of wilting and eventually dying. He reportedly does not fault solely Israel for the deterioration of the situation: for instance, Linowitz appears to accept the Israeli contention that Egypt has been stalling over the “normalization.”
He also heard — and apparently appreciated — Israel’s claim that the Egyptian press has mounted a viciously hostile campaign against Begin and Israel as a whole — which does nothing to help the peace process.
CROWDED SCHEDULE FOR LINOWITZ
Israel’s chief autonomy negotiator, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, was quoted today as saying his own talk with Linowitz had been “tough.” The special envoy had a crowded schedule today. Three hours with the Premier and separate meetings with Burg and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He is to see Begin again tomorrow and meet with the full autonomy negotiating team under Burg. He will also meet separately with Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres and former Premier Yitzhak Rabin.
Linowitz is understood to firmly deny that his current mission is a political gambit connected with the U.S. Presidential election campaign and designed to show that the peace process, the brightest foreign policy feather in President Carter’s cap, is still alive. He has expressed fears on the part of Washington that an ongoing suspension of the talks can only lead to their final collapse.
ENVOY’S NEXT STOP IS EGYPT
Linowitz will be going to Egypt Wednesday where President Anwar Sadat has renewed his proposal for Camp David-style talks in Washington after the U.S. Presidential election in November. According to Al Ahram, a special Egyptian envoy took Sodat’s latest message to Ambassador Sood Mortoda in Israel who delivered it to Begin.
Linowitz will also be arriving in Cairo in the wake of a charge by Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali Saturday that the Carter Administration wanted to revive the autonomy talks for election purposes. In a report to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Egyptian Parliament, Ali also accused Israel of breaking pledges given in private to Egyptian and American negotiators.
The autonomy talks, which were to have resumed in early August after Sadat broke them off last May, were postponed again by the Egyptian President to protest Israel’s new Jerusalem Law. Ali said that Cairo believes that the talks could not resume while Israel took such measures.
But he charged that the Carter Administration views the Comp David accords as important to the President’s reelection campaign and wanted negotiations to resume regardless of what happened. “They want to give American public opinion the impression their Middle East efforts are still achieving positive results,” Ali said.
THORN POSTPONES REVISITING ISRAEL
In another development, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Goston Thorn, chairman of the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Council of Ministers, who was in Cairo Saturday, said he has postponed another visit to Israel at Israel’s request. He said he would try to arrange a new date in order to meet with West Bank and Gaza leaders.
Thorn has visited Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf, the Arab League headquarters in Tunis and Egypt in a follow up to the EEC foreign ministers’ declaration in Venice last June calling for the participation of all parties, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, in Mideast peace negotiations.
Meanwhile, Bolivia has become the latest country to decide to move its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
SECOND THOUGHTS ON MOVING PREMIER’S OFFICE
In Israel, meanwhile, there is a growing feeling among observers that the plan to move the Premier’s office to East Jerusalem is no longer seen with enthusiasm by many Cabinet ministers.
Chastened by the dramatic — and for Israel, entirely negative — effects of the Jerusalem Law, a number of senior ministers are understood to be having serious second thoughts about the wisdom of moving the office at this time. Ministers have indicated that they want to be consulted privately and individually by Begin before he brings the matter up before the Cabinet.
Education Minister Zevulun Hammer said in a radio interview that there was no argument that Israel had the right to place the office wherever it wonted in Jerusalem, but moving the office now would be politically ill-timed.
In a separate interview, Labor Alignment Knesseter Yossi Sarid charged, quoting a “senior coalition source,” that Cabinet ministers had promised Washington that the Jerusalem bill would be buried in committee. However, Sarid said, eventually “local political interests took precedence over the State’s interests, and the Jerusalem issue become a victim of the coming (Israeli) election campaign.”
There has been detectable rethinking, too, among Knesset hawks over the idea of a Golan annexation bill. Again, the unpleasant consequences of the Jerusalem Law seem to have impressed themselves upon a number of Knesseters who are now sowing that the time is not apt for a further measure that the world outside would take as a provocation.
The seriousness of the Golan proposal — and this has been underscored in quiet diplomatic contacts by American and other Western diplomats — is that an annexation would directly flout the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 242.