Jerusalem (Oct. 21)
Israeli, Egyptian and American negotiators will resume the autonomy talks in Tel Aviv tonight. The discussion at the sub-ministerial working level, are expected to last a week. They are the first since the autonomy talks were resumed in Alexandria last month after a hiatus of more than a year.
But the feeling in Israeli circles is that little progress can be expected toward an agreement on autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt urged the Israelis, in an interview published in Yediot Achronot today, to be “flexible on questions of principle, especially after the death of President Sadat.” He said “both sides must be more pliable.”
Israeli officials said Israel had no new positions to offer. Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said flatly that he saw no way to bridge the gap between the Israeli and Egyptian positions.
KEY TO SUCCESSFUL OUTCOME OF THE TALKS
Premier Menachem Begin told the Knesset committee today that the key to a successful outcome of the talks would be the election of members to the self-governing council in the occupied territories. He rejected a proposal that the Arab mayors in the territories nominate the candidates for the council, a suggestion reportedly made by the Americans. The government apparently fears that if the mayors have any role in selecting the candidates, the self-governing body would be in the hands of Palestine Liberation Organization sympathizers.
Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, a member of the committee, said the question was not procedural, but whether Israel really wanted to grant the local population full autonomy or whether it wanted only another document which would not advance the talks. He said there was no point in waiting until Israel completes its withdrawal from Sinai next April because the delay would bring no political gain.