JERUSALEM (May. 15)
Two top government aides, heading a team of ranking civil servants, flew to Cairo last night to begin talks with Egyptian officials on a "package deal approach" to the outstanding bilateral problems between Israel and Egypt.
The team, headed by Foreign Ministry Director General David Kimche and Gen. Avraham Tamir, Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, was dispatched to the Egyptian capital after they heard a report from Richard Murphy, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who accompanied Secretary of State George Shultz on his visits to Israel, Egypt and Jordan last weekend.
Murphy, who returned to Jerusalem to brief the Israelis on Shultz’s talks with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, indicated that Cairo is prepared to adopt the "package deal" approach. Israeli sources said Shultz and Murphy had sought to inject "a sense of urgency and importance" in both Jerusalem and Cairo with respect to the resolution of outstanding disputes.
SOME OF THE ISSUES
The most immediate issue in the "package" is the border dispute over Taba, a tiny strip of beach on the Gulf of Aqaba claimed by both Israel and Egypt.
Other elements are the normalization of relations between the two countries which have stagnated for years and which Israel wants reactivated; a cessation of hostile anti-Israel propaganda–especially anti-Semitic articles and cartoons–in the Egyptian press; and the return of the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel who was called home in September, 1982, during the Lebanon war.
Another element, probably the most important, but not mentioned specifically, is a possible summit meeting between Mubarak and Premier Shimon Peres.
The Israeli and Egyptian officials are meeting today and tomorrow at the Mena House Hotel outside Cairo. Sources here see this as the first of several such sessions and expect steady work rather than a sudden breakthrough.
The nub of the Taba issue is Egypt’s insistence that it be submitted to arbitration. The 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty provides machinery to resolve disputes by conciliation and arbitration if negotiations between the two sides fail.
Israeli sources said they feared a formalistic, hidebound arbitration process would inevitably raise tensions, would be costly and time-consuming, whereas conciliation could be completed much more quickly and in a more harmonious atmosphere.
It was reliably learned here that the Israeli team will propose a mixed process of conciliation and arbitration which would enable the mutually agreed-upon arbitrator to propose a compromise solution rather than a straightforward ruling in favor of one side or the other.
This is a departure from Israel’s policy under the former Likud-led government which insisted on conciliation before arbitration. Israel is now agreeable to arbitration but wants the instrument of arbitration to be broadly and flexibly worded to allow for a conciliatory solution.
The Taba issue is complicated by the presence there of the Israeli-owned Sonesta Hotel and the Rafi Nelson Holiday Village, both tourist resorts.