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Strauss, in Israel, Says Autonomy Talks Ready to Shiet into Second Gear

September 12, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Robert Strauss, President Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, arrived here today from meetings with President Anwar Sadat in Cairo exuding confidence that the Israeli-Egyptian autonomy talks are ready to “shift into second gear” and can be successfully concluded by May, 1980, the deadline set at Camp David.

Strauss, who went directly from Ben Gurion Airport to Jerusalem for a meeting with Premier Menachem Begin this afternoon, described his talks with Sadat as “most useful and constructive He said the Egyptian leader was “extremely positive about his meetings with Begin In Haifa last week.

“It appeared to me that President Sadat had come from a feeling of optimism and feeling of hope. . . to a certainty that we would indeed be successful,” Strauss said. He stressed that success was possible within the framework of the Camp David agreements and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Contrary to reports last week that Israel and Egypt had agreed to slow down the autonomy talks, Strauss said “Israel, Egypt and ourselves (the U.S.) share a common timetable and share a common approach, one that calls for shifting into second gear, if you wish.”

Strauss was seconded in those remarks by Interior Minister Yosef Burg, head of the Israeli ministerial delegation in the autonomy talks. Burg said Israel had no intention of waiting until the last minute of the remaining eight months allotted for the negotiations over autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Strauss gave no indication of what factors may have contributed to Sadat’s optimism. However, he said, it was now possible to “bring out on the table. . . some of the more difficult, controversial and acrimonious issues.” He appeared to be referring to the question of Jerusalem and the scope of authority for the proposed autonomous councils, issues that have bogged down the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations up to now.


Those issues will be discussed by the auton{SPAN}###{/SPAN} working groups in the months ahead and by the full ministerial autonomy committees. The Israeli and Egyptian working groups meeting in Herzliya today adjourned without reaching any agreement but freely acknowledged their differences.

The major obstacle is Egypt’s insistence that the 70,000 Arab inhabitants of East Jerusalem be permitted to vote in the autonomy elections. Israel adamantly refuses on grounds that East Jerusalem is an integral part of the capital and of Israel. The Egyptians also want broader powers for the autonomous council while Israel is prepared to give it only limited jurisdiction.

These matters will come up when the ministerial negotiators convene again in Alexandria in two weeks. Burg will head the Israeli team, Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil the Egyptian and Strauss is expected to represent the U.S.

Strauss and Begin, speaking to reporters after their meeting late today, said they hoped to canters a to work in compliance with the Camp David accords on autonomy. Begin said that “Ambassador Strauss and I had a very friendly discussion and we have decided that both sides will continue acting in accordance with the Camp David framework agreements.” He added that he had briefed Strauss on his discussions with Sadat and that the U.S. envoy briefed Begin on his own talks with the Egyptian President.

Strauss said, “I have very little to add to what the Premier has said other than to amplify with respect to the Camp David accords.” He added, “I suspect that now we can begin to look back at the beginning of the Camp David process and measure just what was accomplished in terms of what has happened since then.” Earlier, Strauss said he planned to appoint a military advisor from the Pentagon to assist him at the autonomy negotiations.


“Meanwhile, another special envoy has arrived in Israel. He is Robert Stanfield assigned by Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark to investigate the possibility of moving Canada’s Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move was promised by Clark during his election campaign this year but was deferred under pressure from the Arab states and Canadian business interests pending Stanfield’s fact-finding mission. The Canadian emissary will also visit Arab countries. He is due to present his recommendations to Clark next year.

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