Talks bolster Egypt-US alliance
Although "perplexed" by the attitude of Israel, President Sadat of Egypt seems to be committed almost indefinitely to continuing the peace process with the Israelis.
This is one of the impressions which emerged from the two days of talks between President Carter and Mr. Sadat during the latter's just-completed visit to the United States.
Next it will be turn of Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin to meet with Mr. Carter on ways of getting the stalled Egyptian-Israeli negotiations on Palestinian "autonomy" moving. One result of Mr. Begin's planned visit here next week is expected to be an agreement to intensify the autonomy talks, through meetings at the ministerial level, which could begin as early as the end of this month in Washington.
Two additional conclusions, emerge from the Sadat-Carter talks: (1) Mr. Carter's position on Palestinian autonomy is much closer to that of Mr. Sadat than it is closer to that of Mr. Sadat than it is to that of Mr. Begin, and (2) while professing that the Israelis have prevented fulfillment of provisions in the US-sponsored Camp David agreements relating to the Palestinians. Mr. Sadat is tying himself ever more tightly into an alliance with the United States.
President Carter revealed his similarity of views with President Sadat on the autonomy question in a dinner toast which he made at the White House on April 8. The President stressed that Prime Minister Begin was committed to granting the Palestinians "full autonomy."
President Sadat elaborated on his ever-growing ties with Washington when he told an ABC television interviewer April 9 that Egypt would offer the US "every facility" to reach the Persian Gulf in the event of a crisis requiring American military action.
Mr. Sadat had earlier agreed to the servicing of US fighter and radar planes during stopovers in Egypt.
President Carter, for his part, made a break with past policy last January when he decided to supply Egypt with sophisticated US weapons, including F-16 fighters. The Carter administration also is helping Egypt to revitalize its arms industry.
One Middle East expert said that President Sadat is expected to offer the Americans an opportunity to "preposition" military supplies in Egypt for possible rapid movement in a crisis to the Gulf.
But Mr. Sadat remains opposed to the idea of permanent American bases being established in Egypt. His objection is apparently based on the assumption that such bases would offend nationalistic sentiment in Egypt and become a target for internal criticism.
President Sadat told NBC television on April 9 that he was "perplexed" by the attitude of Prime Minister Begin toward Palestinian autonomy and by Mr. Begin's continued insistence on establishing new Jewish settlements in the occupied Arab territories. ASked if the Israelis had been negotiating in good faith. Mr. Sadat said that "really they are not sticking to the spirit of Camp David."
Mr. Sadat was asked about the May 26 target date for creation of a "framework" for autonomy, and whether that date could be postponed.
"It will depend on the attitude of Israel," he responded. "If we can reach before the 26th or by the 27th a solution for the major problems and a problem or two needs some more time, then it is OK. But if by that time we don't reach anything, then it is really serious."
After 10 months of talks on autonomy, the main problems dividing Egypt and Israel revolve largely around the question of how much power is to be granted to more than 1 million Palestinians living on the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. The Israelis want to prevent any self-governing Palestinian authority from becoming so strong that it might eventually evolve into an independent Palestinian state. Such a state, they argue, would be PLO-dominated. Soviet-influenced, and dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
But some US and Egyptian officials fear that Assistant Prof. Mark Heller of Boston College may have been right when he wrote in a recent issue of the magazine Foreign Policy that the Palestinian administrative council envisaged by the Israelis might well be described as an entity responsible only for "maintaining antiquities and cleaning the streets."
The most difficult issue of all so far, according to Sol Linowitz, chief US negotiator on the Mideast, has been the question of voting rights for Palestinians living in Jerusalem. Other issues involve the control of land and water and Israel's right to move troops freely throughout the West Bank.