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Knesset Approves Multinational Force and Observers Agreement

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The Knesset today overwhelmingly approved the agreement reached between Israel, Egypt and the U.S. for a multinational force and observers to police Sinai after Israel completes its final withdrawal from the peninsula in April, 1982.

The opposition Labor Party joined with Likud and the religious factions in support of the agreement. Only the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction and the pro-Moscow Hadash Communist Party at opposite extremes of the political spectrum, voted against it.

Two Herut MKs abstained — Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee who opposed the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty when it was signed in March, 1979, and David Magen, Mayor of Kiryat Gat, who is a newcomer to parliament. They were joined by National Religious Party die-hard Rabbi Haim Druckman.

The agreement will be formally signed this Friday at the White House with President Reagan representing the U.S. and the foreign ministers of Israel and Egypt representing their respective countries.

ELEMENTS OF THE AGREEMENT

It provides for three battalions of troops — of which the U.S. will provide one — totalling “not more than 2,000 men” as well as air, sea, logistics, communications and observer units. The observers will be American civilians. Their duties, as defined by the peace treaty, will be to police “Zone D,” a narrow strip on the Israeli side of the border to which the limitation of forces applies.

The agreement was submitted to the Knesset by Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir along with a letter from the U.S. embassies in Tel Aviv and Cairo to the Israeli and Egyptian governments pledging that the U.S. will continue its aerial surveillance over Sinai. The flights have been in operation since 1975 to assist the parties monitoring the various demilitarized and limitation of forces zones.

After Israel’s final pull-out next April 26, they will be extended to cover “Zone D.” One of the letters comprising the agreement package is a commitment from Secretary of State Alexander Haig to all parties involved that the U.S. will in the future “use its best efforts to find acceptable replacements for contingents that withdraw from the multinational force” and that “the U.S. remains prepared to take those steps necessary to ensure the maintenance of an acceptable multi-national force.”

Israeli sources said the letter confirmed and strengthened the original commitment made by President Carter to establish “and maintain” the multinational force and that the American undertaking is in effect, open-ended.

DAYAN CAUTIONS THE KNESSET

But former Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, who was responsible in large measure for negotiating the peace treaty with Egypt, cautioned the Knesset today that the multinational force is an integral part of and contingent upon the treaty and depended on America’s continuing desire to maintain it.

Dayan asserted that if one party should abrogate the treaty, the multinational force would no longer have validity; and if Washington decided to withdraw the American contingent, the force would disintegrate regardless of the wording of the agreement.

Dayan urged, for those reasons, that Israel make “a supreme effort” to preserve and protect that “basic strategic understanding” between it, the U.S. and Egypt which underlies the entire Camp David structure. He mentioned specifically in that connection that the negotiations for autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip are “linked politically” to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

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