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Inner Cabinet Splits on Party Lines to Reject Peres’ Request for Arbitration of Taba Dispute

Premier Shimon Peres suffered a setback to his strategy for thawing the “cold peace” with Egypt when the inner Cabinet failed last night to approve his plan to submit the Taba border dispute to international arbitration, as Egypt demands.

The 10-man body consisting of five Labor and five Likud ministers split along party lines on the issue. A tie vote constitutes rejection of the motion at hand. The Likud ministers, headed by Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, insist that conciliation be tried first to resolve the Taba dispute before going to binding arbitration. The 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty provides for both methods to solve disputes that cannot be resolved through negotiations.

The inner cabinet called on Peres and Shamir to get together and devise a formula acceptable to both major components of the unity government. Sources close to Peres did not conceal their disappointment over the deadlock. The Premier is prepared to accede to Egypt’s view of how the Taba dispute should be settled. In return, he has reason to believe, Cairo will be amenable to a package formula that would resolve all outstanding bilateral issues between the two countries, including the return of the Egyptian Ambassador to Tel Aviv.

Peres had made clear privately that he is prepared to press this strategy for improved relations with Egypt even at the risk of a coalition crisis. But he intends to wait several weeks before taking precipitate action, his aides say.

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