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Israeli election shakes Egypt's dreams of peace

To the man who launched the Mideast peace process, a weak government in Israel amounts to an impotent peace partner. The inability of Prime Minister Menachem Begin or Labor opposition leader Shimon Peres to win a safe majority of Knesset (parliament) seats spells trouble for President Anwar Sadat's dream of a comprehensive peace in the region.

"We are looking forward to a strong government capable of forging ahead with peace and implmenting the Camp David peace agreements," said Boutros Ghati, minister of state for foreign affairs.

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In view of the disappointing June 30 election results, the question of who will form Israel's incoming Cabinet matters less, top Egyptian officials agreed.

What matters most, according to these officials, is that the Israeli government be capable of making tough decisions and showing flexibility in future negotiations without fearing the disapproval of coalition partners or a no-confidence vote in the Knesset.

"The issue is not hawks or doves," said a ranking aide, pointing out the convergence of Israeli politicians' views on subjects that marred the ill-fated Palestinian autonomy talks with Egypt. Both maintain that Palestinians could not be granted self-determination, that Jews have a right to settle in the WEst Bank, and that unified Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, differing only on details.

In the few weeks preceding the elections Egyptian officials increasingly voiced their faith in the Camp David framework agreement on the Palestinians in the hope that the new Israeli Cabinet would take a fresh approach to the talks.

The reason, they conceded privately, is not that the formula seems more workable or promising than before, but that no valid alternative has presented itself. The Reagan administration, they believe, wants to exhaust this option first.

In addition, their worries that a resumption of the talks, started in May 1979, would cast its shadow on Egypt's subtle fence-mending contacts with moderate Arabs have been shelved for the time being.

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