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Success of Carter’s Mission Seen As Depending on What Sadat Decides

March 7, 1979
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The success of President Carter’s bold initiative to achieve an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty by going to Cairo and Jerusalem is seen by informed opinion here today as depending entirely on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and his government and such assurance from them is not yet certain.

In Cairo, Egyptian Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil, who has been contending that Egypt’s position has not changed since the Camp David summit in September, said that position is unchanged but he believes a peace treaty now appears to be imminent.

He did not explain how the Israelis, who have refused to accept the Egyptian views on crucial issues, now have accepted a formula agreeable to Egypt but which the Israelis report to be quite different from the proposals they had rejected as late as Saturday night.


While a distinctly upbeat feeling that a possible breakthrough is near was noted in some quarters, the Carter Administration itself and members of the House and Senate close to the Middle East situation took a much more cautious view, noting that difficult decisions still lay ahead.

By accepting the President’s proposals made Sunday afternoon on the two major elements of dispute in the treaty process, Israeli Premier Menachem Begin and his government are being credited as having done their utmost to reach the goal of peace by Congressional sources. The Administration sees it as “positive” but does not speak of a breakthrough.

Whether Sadat will be as forthcoming as Israel is the Key question here as Carter prepares to leave tomorrow for his fateful three-day visit to Cairo from where he will go to Jerusalem Saturday night. His schedule raises another major question; which is; whether the President foresees negotiations with Begin after his talks with Sadat who, some believe, may express dissatisfaction with the new U. S. proposal.

He ?us may continue to pressure Carter for extraction of additional concessions from Israel as a price for the treaty, realizing Carter’s need for success because of the American political scene. This Egyptian tactic looms starkly in the scenario visualized by Mideast observers of the political drama on which the President has staked the prestige of the American Presidency and his personal place in history.

On the other hand, Carter is being praised on all sides for his personal courage in taking such a great risk in the complex Middle East conflict that has gone 30 years without solution.


To prepare the ground for his discussions with Sadat, Carter sent National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and Special Ambassador Alfred Atherton to Cairo yesterday where they will present the details of the American proposals to the Egyptian leadership. Their explanation will be made against a background of the convulsive events of the Islamic revolt in Iran, the reduced production and upward pricing of oil and the impact on the United States and its allies.

The general hope is that Sadat will agree to the American insights and the new American draft proposals and that subsequently Carter’s visit to Jerusalem will be principally to discuss the treaty signing which some forecast may actually take place next week in the Sinai.

The precise language of the proposals Israel has accepted is not being disclosed. When Begin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees yesterday he stressed that the proposals were embargoed until after Sadat receives and studies them. However, it is known that they concern the issue of priority of an Egyptian Israeli treaty over the agreements Egypt has with Arab League members and the linkage of the treaty with a timetable for autonomy an the West Bank and Gaza.


A principal source who was involved in separate discussions both with Carter and Begin this week, said, ‘it could be when he was asked whether a reported “trade-off” was what Israel finally accepted. According to a widespread media report, this would put the treaty in the top priority, which Israel wants, while setting a target date for autonomy which Egypt wants.

Sadat, the source noted, bas suggested he would agree on autonomy first for the Gaza Strip, which Egypt lost in the 1967 war but which Sadat feels he can deliver into becoming on autonomous area. West Bank autonomy would come later.

During his four days of talks with Carter, “wording became very important to Begin,” a Senatorial source said. “To him, legalisms and semantics form the basic principles of the agreement.” The Jewish Telegraphic Agency also was informed that when Begin accepted the President’s proposals “it was the most encouraging news since the original Camp David announcements.”

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