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Vance’s Upbeat Mood About Cairo’s New Reaction to Peace Treaty Stirs Suspicion of New Pressures on I

December 14, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance flew back to Israel this morning for a day of talks with Premier Menachem Begin and his ministers. The mood in political circles here was one of sober realization that the U.S. is seriously determined to try and meet the Dec. 17 deadline set by the Camp David accords for the conclusion of the treaty.

At the same time, there were expressions of rueful suspicion voiced in some quarters at the atmosphere of intense and optimistic expectancy that had been generated–apparently deliberately–by Vance and his party in their markedly upbeat statements from Cairo during the past 24 hours. The suspicion was that these statements–“We have finished with these two issues” (linkage and Article VI); “We have made good progress”–were designed to focus expectations on Israel now as a means of psychological pressure.

Vance met with Begin, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman this morning and later with the seven-member Ministerial Defense Committee. Dayan was scheduled to give a working dinner for Vance this evening. Officials said there might be more talks tomorrow before Vance returns to Cairo.

There was gratification here at reports that President Anwar Sadat is now prepared to accept the nine-article draft treaty intact, having apparently dropped his earlier demands for changes in Article VI, the priority of obligations clause. One highly placed source told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before Vance’s arrival that the U.S. might propose letters setting out the differing interpretations of Article VI by the two sides as a way to overcome the dispute on this key issue.

Egypt insists that its obligations under the 1950 Arab League defense pact would take precedence over its peace treaty with Israel in the event that Israel attacked a sister Arab state. Egypt argues that Article VI, even as presently phrased in the draft treaty, clearly implies that interpretation, because it says “subject to the UN Charter” and in that Charter the right of collective self-defense is considered inalienable.

In practice, of course, the legal-political difficulty would arise over the meaning of the word “attack.” Conceivably, Egypt could argue in the future that Israel’s continuing presence on the Golan Heights represents an ongoing attack against Syria, justifying Egypt’s intervention on Syria’s behalf. The U.S. may well be offering Israel separate assurance, also linked to the overall treaty package, on the question of defining “attack.”

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