WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
Sol Linowitz, who was President Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, stressed today that an autonomy agreement between Israel and Egypt is “achievable” because, he asserted, there are “no unsolvable problems.”
Linowitz, who returned 10 days ago from a “private” visit to Egypt and Israel, said that both Premier Menachem Begin and President Hosni Mubarak are determined to seek an autonomy agreement because they believe there is no alternative to the Camp David process.
Answering questions from reporters at a breakfast press conference sponsored by Foreign policy magazine, Linowitz said the Israelis “recognize” that if the Camp David process is allowed to fade and die, any other plan, such as the proposals by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia or the initiative by the European Economic Community (EEC) countries, will not be as favorable to Israel.
SAYS MUBARAK WANTS PEACE PROCESS TO CONTINUE
As for Mubarak, who arrives here this afternoon for talks beginning tomorrow with the Reagan Administration, he wants to prove to the Arab world that Egypt does not just want the return of Sinai but is seeking autonomy for the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Linowitz said.
He said that when he met with Mubarak in Cairo last month, the Egyptian President assured him that he wants to continue with the peace process. He said Mubarak stressed that Israel did not sign the Fahd plan or the European initiative but only the Camp David accords.
Linowitz said the April 25 date when Israel is scheduled to complete its withdrawal from Sinai “is a good date to school at” for an autonomy agreement but “not directly relevant to the autonomy negotiations.” He said there is no deadline for such agreement.
At the same time, Linowitz maintained that if Israel and Egypt and the U.S. worked out an agreement, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would join in. He said in that case they would inform the Palestine Liberation Organization that they planned to participate in the autonomy, just as they did when they wanted to participate in the West Bank mayoral elections despite PLO opposition.
CRITICAL OF REAGAN ADMINISTRATION
Linowitz, who said he speaks to Secretary of State Alexander Haig “from time to time, “was mildly critical of the Reagan Administration for not giving major attention to the autonomy negotiations until Haig’s two trips to Israel and Egypt last month. He said he had advised the Administration in January, 1981, to name a replacement for him immediately, something the Administration was reluctant to do. He said the alternative would have been for Haig to involve himself directly in the negotiations, similar to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy.
Linowitz reserved judgment on Haig’s decision to appoint a special representative, Richard Fairbanks, who until recently was Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations and has no experience in the Middle East and would report directly to Haig. But Linowitz warned that now that the Administration has given the autonomy talks “high priority”, it “cannot now relegate it to an unimportant position.”
Meanwhile, Haig told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that Reagan has approved naming Fairbanks to work full time to help Israel and Egypt move ahead on the autonomy issue.
CITES FIVE ISSUES INVOLVED IN AUTONOMY TALKS
Linowitz said that, as was the case when he ended his tenure as special ambassador, 80 percent of the problems have been solved for an autonomy agreement. He said the same five issues he outlined in 1980 still remained to be solved.
The first three issues are the need to protect Israel’s security in the autonomous areas, water rights and the question of public lands, including Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Linowitz said that the Israelis have adhered to the assurances given him that only four more settlements would be established on the West Bank. He said that while there has been a “thickening” of existing settlements, the population of those settlements has not increased as much as some people believe.
The fourth issue is the powers of the self-governing authority, with Israel insisting that it have only administrative powers while Egypt is asking for it to have legislative authority. Linowitz said a way to get around this was not to attach any adjective to the description of the authority. The fifth problem, which Linowitz called the most difficult, is over Egypt’s demand that East Jerusalem Arabs be allowed to vote for the self-governing authority.
Israel rejects this because it fears the voting rights could challenge its sovereignty over Jerusalem. Linowitz has proposed that East Jerusalem Arabs vote in Bethlehem. Begin has rejected that proposal.
Linowitz had some advice for the Israeli Premier based on the inscription at the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv: “Remember the past, live in the present, trust the future.” He said Begin fears the future because he sees change as endangering Israel’s security. “If you are going to have peace, you have to have trust,” Linowitz said. He said Israel should learn from the changes it has already experienced in its relations with Egypt that change is the only way to bring about peace.