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Atherton Talks Continue, Breakthrough Seen on Article Iv

January 19, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

U.S. Special envoy Alfred Atherton had two working sessions today with a team of Israeli legal specialists led by Dr. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, chief political aide to Premier Menachem Begin. Informed sources said there was substantial progress on Article IV of the draft peace treaty (the “review clause”) and that the talks were now focussing on Article VI, paragraph five (the “priority of obligations” clause).

Atherton is expected to remain here over the weekend and then proceed to Cairo for talks. By then, Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil, a key figure on the Egyptian side of the negotiations, will have returned from Khartoum where he is heading a large Egyptian delegation for cooperation talks with the Sudanese government.

Israeli sources reported a relaxed and businesslike atmosphere at the talks with Atherton. The American diplomat, flanked by State Department legal aide Herbert Hansell and U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, is apparently making special efforts to understand Israel’s concerns and dispel the unpleasant memories of the tough talks with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance a month ago.

The breakthrough on Article IV, it was understood, flows from Israel’s acceptance of the Egyptian contention that the article as presently drafted could conceivably enable Israel to refuse to review the Sinai security arrangements in the future.

Accordingly, an “explanatory note” is likely to be drafted which will provide that the two sides have the right to call for a review and that if one of them does so call, the other will be obliged to take part in the review. The results of such a review would have to be agreed upon by both sides — as Article IV specifically states.

Still unclear is the time-span between the final Sinai withdrawal and the holding of a mandatory review. Israel rejected Egypt’s proposal for a five-year deadline — or indeed for any specific deadline — arguing that this would give the treaty a transient quality. But informed sources expect that language will be found expressing the desirability of the review after a reasonable period of time.


During today’s sessions, the American team is understood to have submitted an exhaustive definition of circumstances in which Egypt would have the right to intervene against Israel. {SPAN}####{/SPAN} inter-Arab defense treaties. These circumstances would be strictly circumscribed. They would not include, for instance, an Israeli punitive raid against Palestinian terrorist bases in Lebanon. The U.S. hopes in this way to satisfy both sides’ concerns over Article VI, paragraph 5.

The third legal-textual issue being tackled by Atherton, Article VI, paragraph 11, is likely to prove the most difficult. Israeli sources indicated no sign whatever of readiness to soften the Israeli rejection of the “interpretative note” to this article which was drafted jointly by Vance and the Egyptians.

That note stipulates that Article VI, paragraph 11, does not sever the peace treaty from the Camp David “framework for peace,” the document dealing with the projected Palestinian autonomy. Article VI, paragraph 11 itself says the treaty must be executed “independently of any instrument external to this treaty.”

Israel’s view is that the article does sever the treaty, in operative terms, from the Camp David “framework.” Otherwise, Israel argues, the treaty would be “linked” to the Palestinian autonomy which, in the final analysis, depends not on Israel or Egypt but on the Palestinians for its implementation.

Yesterday evening Atherton met with Israel’s Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai to discuss the still-unresolved Sinai oil issue. The issue has become even more crucial, from Israel’s standpoint, in view of the cutoff of Iranian oil supplies. Modai urged that the oil issue not-be left to the tail-end of the negotiations, for fear of it thwarting the talks when they are all but concluded.

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