Jerusalem (Feb. 10)
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, Israel’s chief negotiator in the autonomy talks, has sharply prodded Egypt to resume the talks as soon as possible.
In a statement released by the government press office last night, Burg stressed that Israel was ready to do so at any time and reminded the Egyptians that the two countries are committed under the Camp David accords to negotiate “continuously and in good faith” in order to reach agreement for autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip “at the earliest possible date.”
“A party who does not fulfill his commitment to negotiate brings down upon himself the suspicion that he will not be scrupulous in fulfilling other commitments which he has undertaken,” Burg said. He stressed that Israel was not responsible for the various cut-offs and delays in the negotiating process which was virtually suspended by Cairo last May. “If there is no negotiation there is certainly no chance of reaching agreement,” Burg said.
His statement was issued in the wake of leaked reports of confidential cables from Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar in Cairo to the Foreign Ministry of a meeting he had last week with President Anwar Sadat. According to the reports, Sadat had expressed some reluctance to resume the negotiations
and questioned whether resumption was practical at this time.
Burg said that if Egypt or the U.S., the third party to the negotiations, were delaying resumption pending the Israeli elections this spring, that would be an outright contravention of the Camp David agreements. “It is impossible to demand of Israel that it carry out its commitments under Camp David in full while other parties carry out their part only selectively,” he said.
That remark was seen as a hint that Israel might review its commitment to complete its withdrawal from Sinai by April, 1982 if there was no satisfactory progress in the autonomy negotiations. Observers saw some irony in the fact that Israel appears now to insist on “linkage” between the implementation of the terms of its peace treaty with Egypt and the progress of autonomy.
NOT OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT POSITION
Burg’s tough words did not represent an official position of the government, however. His statement was released without prior consultation with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir or any other minister nor was it coordinated in advance with Premier Menachem Begin. An aide to Begin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Burg, as chairman of the autonomy negotiating team, was fully entitled to make such statements, especially as they reflected the government’s feelings about the state of the autonomy talks.
Shamir himself is known to believe that a greater sense of urgency is necessary to spur the negotiations as the date for the final withdrawl from Sinai approaches. He has called on the parties to conclude the talks by the end of this year, regardless of the election outcome. Shimon Peres, leader of the opposition Labor Party, has also given top priority to the conclusion of an autonomy agreement.
In what could be seen as a shift in Labor’s advocacy of the “Jordanian option,” Peres said last weekend that the time to test that option and to ascertain whether King Hussein is prepared to join the peace process would come only after an autonomy agreement is achieved and implemented — possibly first in Gaza which is the Egyptian view.
TURMOIL OVER LEAK CONTINUES
Meanwhile, the foreign policy establishment was still in turmoil over the leakage of secret diplomatic traffic from Cairo. David Kimche, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, is reportedly conducting an investigation to find the source of the leak. (Kimche was incorrectly identified in yesterday’s JTA dispatch as Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office.)
Foreign Ministry sources insisted today that the leak did not emanate from the ministry. They were inclined to blame the Prime Minister’s Office or the offices of the two Deputy Premiers, Yigael Yadin and Simcha Ehrlich, both of which receive copies of diplomatic cables. But the Foreign Ministry denied reports that Shamir intends to stop circulating diplomatic messages to the Deputy Premiers and require them to come to the Foreign Ministry to read such communications.
Reminder: There will be no Daily News Bulletin dated February 16 due to Washington’s Birthday, a postal holiday.