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Muskie Blames Jerusalem Law for Impasse on Autonomy Talks

August 15, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State Edmund Muskie, in his latest remarks on Egyptian-Israeli relations, blames Israel’s Jerusalem low for the impasse in the West Bank/Gaza autonomy talks but makes no mention of Egyptian legislative measures and actions that preceded the Knesset proclamation of the Jerusalem law on July 23. The Egyptian Parliament on April I and July I adopted measures establishing Cast Jerusalem as Arab. Muskie implies that the Jerusalem law is meaningless insofar as the autonomy talks are concerned.

Muskie’s down-play or silence on Egyptian prejudgments of the Camp David agreements and public criticism of Israel are seen here by some analyst as deliberately intended to mollify President Anwar Sadat out of fear that he might upset President Carter’s cardinal foreign policy achievement and thus hamper his reelection campaign. Israeli anger is regarded as less in this scenario, analysts believe.

In an interview with U.S. News and World Report, published in its current issue, Muskie was asked “Isn’t the Camp David agreement on the Middle East peace showing signs of unraveling? is there danger that Egypt might pull out of the negotiations?”

Muskie replied: “There is that danger. There is a problem with mutual reaction — the tendency by one side to take unilateral actions that create political difficulties for the other side and produce reactions that in turn tend to put the other side on the defensive.

“The settlements question and the Jerusalem issue,” Muskie added, “have been the most difficult. The parties get diverted by unilateral actions. Their concentration is disturbed, and they tend to cause the other side to walk away from the talks.

“The actions now taken and being considered in Israel on Jerusalem cannot finally settle the status of Jerusalem. At some point it will be discussed as an issue. If agreement eventually is reached concerning the status of Jerusalem, then presumably both the Israeli and Egyptian governments will support it not-withstanding any prior position either government may have token live tried to make that point to both sides.

“I regret the actions that Israel is now taking because the risk is that they will lead to interruption of the talks. At the same time, I make the point to the Egyptians that the issue of Jerusalem really is still there to be discussed, and they ought to bear that in mind in their reactions to such things.”

The State Department’s sections to the Jerusalem issue as it relates to the autonomy talks indicates a double standard. It has berated the Knesset law as “an obstacle” to the Comp David peace process although not blocking it because it “prejudges” the matter.

However, it was left to a reporter’s questions to the Department’s spokesman to note that Jerusalem is not included in the Camp David agreement except in side letters and therefore is excluded from the autonomy talks, that the Department had not criticized as “obstacles” the Egyptian Parliament’s measures on April I and July I, nor Egypt’s harsh anti-Israel statements while voting on July 28 for the United Nations General Assembly resolution demanding that Israel withdraw from all the occupied territories, including Jerusalem.


Responding to these observations, the Department’s chief spokesman John Trattner has said “there is some sort of a common agreement” to discuss Jerusalem “at a later stage.” He also said “regardless of whether it (Jerusalem) is in the (Camp David) agreement, Jerusalem is one of the problems the Camp David process seeks to settle.” The issue, he said, “must be determined in later negotiations,” but mean-while, “we would like to move ahead” with the talks.

Yesterday, a Deportment spokesman, David Passage, said the U.S. position is that Jerusalem, “sacred as it is to the people of three faiths, should be on undivided city whose holy places should be accessible to the people of all religions and whose ultimate legal status should be determined by negotiations among the peoples themselves. The Camp David accords were and are intended to lead to a process of negotiations which ultimately must consider all of the questions at issue in the occupied territories.”

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