Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Cabinet to Meet in Extraordinary Session; New Differences Between U.s., Israel; Vance Returning Home

December 15, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Cabinet will meet in extraordinary session tomorrow morning following the apparent breakdown of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s efforts to resolve the issues blocking an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and signs of new differences between Israel and the U.S.

Vance himself announced last night that, on instructions from President Carter, he would be returning to Washington Friday. He confirmed again this morning that he would be ending his current mission in the region tomorrow to attend to pressing business at home that has nothing to do with the Middle East.

Vance met this morning with Premier Menachem Begin but their session appeared to have been unproductive. Begin told reporters afterwards that there were “differences of opinion between Israel and Egypt” and that the Cabinet would meet in special session tomorrow morning “and will take the proper decisions.” But State Department spokesman George Sherman, who is accompanying Vance, told newsmen that in the American view, the differences were not just between Israel and Egypt but between Israel and the U.S.

As matters stand, it appears that Israel has rejected Egyptian demands for treaty revision conveyed by Vance and does not accept American proposals for a compromise that, reportedly, were acceptable to President Anwar Sadat. Egyptian demands concern the “linkage-time-table” and Article VI of the draft treaty — the priority of obligations clause — that Sadat wants changed.


Israeli officials were especially dismayed to learn that Sadat now wants to make the exchange of ambassadors with Israel conditional on the establishment of a Palestinian autonomous council on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He is understood to have told Vance the Third Annex to the draft treaty, “the protocol concerning relations between the parties,” be amended to that effect. Vance reportedly asked Israel to accept the American compromise which would deal with these matters in “side letters” to accompany an Israeli-Egyptian treaty. Israel wants the treaty signed as is without amendments or accompanying letters.

Begin indicated that the impasse has not been broken when he told reporters yesterday that differences still exist with Egypt. He made that remark after a day of talks with Vance and brief consultations with the Ministerial Defense Committee. Vance had said earlier that “there are differences of views between us, but we will continue the discussion tomorrow morning.” He appeared to be referring to differences between the U.S. and Israel.

Begin repeated Israel’s readiness to sign the draft treaty as it stands. He said he thought the Dec. 17 deadline still could be met “but there is no tragedy” if the signing is delayed beyond that date, he said.

The current impasse seemed to observers here today to be the most serious since the Camp David talks ended three months ago and chances of meeting the Dec. 17 deadline seemed virtually nil. Some policymakers here who are usually optimistic wondered aloud today whether a treaty ever will be signed. Others seemed more hopeful. They spoke of last-minute bargaining — a tradition in the Levant — and predicted that a peace treaty would be signed in a matter of weeks, though not by this Sunday.


Meanwhile, Vance left for Cairo this afternoon, saying he would keep in close touch with the Israeli negotiating team and developments in the peace process. In his remarks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport he gave no hint of a possible way out of the present impasse. “Diplomatic sources” here were quoted as saying that Vance’s return to Washington tomorrow should not be interpreted as an end to the peace negotiations but simply a signal for the two parties to resume their talks.

Vance met before his departure with the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Yitzhak Modai to discuss the future of the oil fields in Sinai and Israel’s access to the oil after they are returned to Egypt. Modai said later that more progress was made on that subject than on any of the other issues that Vance discussed with Israeli officials. An American spokesman said, however, that the talks over the Sinai oil were of a business character and did not involve military or political issues.

In what appeared to be another demonstration of the current differences of views between Israel and the U.S., Vance spent some time this afternoon visiting the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Beit Sahur. He reportedly conducted those tours without prior knowledge by the Israeli authorities, guided by the American consul in East Jerusalem. It was not known whether he met with any Arab notables.

Beit Sahur was the subject this week of a new controversy between Arab land owners and Israeli military authorities after the army closed down an area “for military purposes.” Protests made by the Arab notables in the area were also sent to Vance himself, and his trip to the area was apparently in response to those protests.

Recommended from JTA