Officials here labored over the weekend to counter a wave of upbeat reporting that has emanated from Salzburg and Washington following the Ford-Sadat meeting in Salzburg June 1-2. The officials indicated that much of this reporting may be officially inspired in a deliberate effort to create an atmosphere of “imminent agreement”–itself a persuasive form of pressure. Many reports from the U.S. have claimed that Egypt is now ready to offer a substantial concession on the crucial time element of an accord, by agreeing to a three-five year period of duration. Some reports said President Anwar Sadat would now actually agree to have the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) mandate in Sinal renewed for an entire three-year stretch. (See separate story on Cabinet meeting.)
But in Jerusalem, officials pointed out that if these are Egypt’s intentions they have not been officially communicated to Israel. At Kissinger’s meeting with Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz in Washington last Wednesday, the Secretary of State apparently told the envoy that in the American view Salzburg had opened the path to resumed interim talks, but he did not point specifically to precise Egyptian concessions. Some observers here believe Egypt is unlikely to agree to a one-shot three-year UNEF renewal. They feel, though, that Egypt might now be ready to undertake in promises to the U.S. or to Israel that the provisions of an accord would remain valid for at least three-five years, with periodic UNEF renewals to occur automatically. Some discussion–and differences–was expected at last night’s Cabinet meeting on whether such assurances could be acceptable to Israel.
EGYPTIAN ‘PACKAGE’ OFFER POSSIBLE
Egypt is also apparently prepared to go further than it was in March towards satisfying Israel’s demands on the “elements of non-belligerency” such as a reduction of hostile propaganda and diplomatic warfare and diminution of the Arab economic boycott. Israel’s leaders will have to decide whether such concessions should be met in return with an Israeli willingness to forego the earlier demand for a non-belligerency pact in which both sides would formally announce the termination of the state of war. Last March Israel insisted on such a pact as its condition for ceding the strategic Mitle and Gidi passes. Egypt still insists that no accord is possible unless those passes are ceded and still rejects the non-belligerency demand. The problem facing the Israeli leadership is whether a package of Egyptian concessions on “time” and on “elements” could persuade Israel to waive the non-belligerency demand, settle for a “non-use of force formula” and cede the passes.
Some of the more “hawkish” ministers are believed to be urging that the government slow the pace of the negotiations, and not conclude any agreement until after July 24, the date on which the present three-month UNEF mandate expires. These ministers are said to feel that Sadat’s decision to renew the mandate in May for only three months instead of six months as heretofore must not be rewarded with the spectacle of Israel negotiating under the pressure of the July 24 time limit. Rather, Egypt should be asked to renew the mandate for a further six months as a sign of its sincere intent to progress towards a settlement, these ministers contend.
AMERICAN PEACE PLAN?
There is a growing feeling among some observers here that Rabin and Israel may be forced to grapple with the question of final peace sooner than they would prefer as a result of renewed American interest in the subject, especially on the part of President Ford. These observers anticipate with some misgivings that the U.S. Mideast policy “reassessment” may well lead to the formulation of a new American peace plan. This would certainly involve Jerusalem in long and arduous arguments with Washington. There are no illusions here as to the disparity between America’s and Israel’s visions of a final settlement.
The key question is whether Sadat and/or Ford, for their own various reasons, will seek now to interpose the issues of an overall settlement into the resumed negotiations. If they do, some veteran observers here feel, it could prejudice the chances of concluding an interim accord which have otherwise begun to look relatively brighter. Premier Rabin will know the answer to this key question only after he confers with President Ford later this week.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.