WASHINGTON (Mar. 30)
— With the dates announced by the White House for the separate summit meetings President Carter will hold in April, first with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and a week with Premier Menachem Begin, both the mood and expectations attendant to the talks are under-going scrutiny.
Sadat will arrive in Washington April 7 for three days, riding his already well-established high plateau of popularity with Americans as the new giant of pro-American influence in the Middle East, a reputation enhanced by his taking the forme Shat of Iran out of U.S. accountability. As on previous visits, Sadat is booked for a National Press Club appearance on the last day of his visit, April 10.
Begin will be here April 15-16 with his prestige in the U.S. at possibly the lowest ever assessed for an-Israeli leader. One cause is the flood of adverse publicity launched against Jewish presence on the West Bank, which is irrelevant to the Camp David accords. Another cause is his refusal to bend any further towards Egypt’s demands which he repeatedly has said are outside those accords. He conveyed this position to special American Ambassador Sol Linowitz last week but it has scarcely been noticed here.
Begin will arrive in New York City April 14 to rest before proceeding to Washington. While here, he will likely hold a news conference. He will be in New York again briefly April 17 before leaving for Jerusalem. During the past week, Begin has come under increasingly harsh attacks from both the right and the left among media pundits, who have concentrated on “settlements.” Although “settlements” are not mentioned in either the Camp David accords or Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, they have become a principal “obstacle to peace”– in Carter Administration terminology — that is holding up agreement for West Bank – Gaza Strip autonomy.
STALEMATE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE
On the autonomy talks, Egypt and Israel are far apart. It has become clear the U.S. has increased its support for the Egyptian position. That this stalemate is not expected to be broken in the April talks is already anticipated by Sadat, who said in Cairo last Friday he would take part in a three-way summit with both Carter and Begin
In his address on the anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty a week ago, Carter spoke of observing “the letter and the spirit” of the Camp David accords. Some of those present interpreted that remark as subtle criticism of the Israeli government policy of establishing on Israeli civilian presence in Judaea and Samaria.
Israeli supporters have noted that the Egyptians have broken the Camp David accords both in letter and spirit. They note that no criticism has arisen over the Egyptian icy treatment of the first Israeli representatives in Cairo, including Israel’s Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissor. Apart from diplomatic formalities, Egyptians are boycotting social events that include Israeli officials.
While the Camp David accord call for an “administrative council,” for the West Bank and Gaza, to conduct local government affairs while Israel controls external security and foreign affairs, the Egyptians want a “legislative council” that is seen as a prescription for a Palestinian state. In addition, the accords specifically exclude Jerusalem, but Egypt insists on East Jerusalem being included in the West Bank elections. Egypt proposes a committee to provide security guarantees for Israel but the accords call for Israeli military units to be in specified areas. Thus, Egypt goes beyond the Camp David accords, pro-Israeli observers here noted.
“Unless Egypt complies with the accords, there is no hope for progress,” one observer noted. “The purpose of the Washington talks is to break this deadlock. The question is whether Sadat is prepared for autonomy under the accords. If he is, there are no problems. The settlements are a completely marginal issue. That they have become a major issue in the media was encouraged above all by the March 1 Security Council Resolution 465 and the U.S. vote for it.”
“Begin went out on a limb by agreeing to the Camp David accords,” another observer said. “He cannot possibly go further, nor can any other Israeli Prime Minister without risking a Palestinian state and all that it entails. This has nothing to do with Begin personally. If the May 26 target date passes without an agreement for autonomy it would not be a disaster, but if Egypt agrees with the accord agreement can be reached today.”
TWO FACTORS LOOMING
Meanwhile, two other factors loom here. One is the move by European nations to alter Security Council Resolution 242 that underpins the Camp David accords. The U.S. is committed against any changes in Resolution 242, but observers have noted the State Department is apparently not going beyond Mary 26 on this commitment.
The other is the drive by the Palestine Liberation Organization, exuberant by its successes for diplomatic recognition in West Europe and most lately in India, where PLO chief Yasir Arafat last Friday proclaimed a new “holy war” against Israel and called for volunteers to fight Zionism, imperialism and colonialism – PLO code words for Israel, the U.S. and other democratic nations.
On PLO initiative, the Arab delegates at the UN are pressing a Security Council resolution on Palestinian rights, which may come up this week. Europeans are said to consider this proposed resolution excessive, but, given the momentum for appeasing the Arabs in consideration for oil and investments, observers feel even this far-out resolution may receive the Europeans’ approval.