Stalled by Israel, disappointed by US, Sadat seeks support of Arabs
As Egypt and Israel lock horns over Jerusalem, and the Camp David peace process seems to have run aground, President Anwar Sadat is searching for somewhere else to turn.
His faith in President Carter shaken, and Israeli intransigence reaffirmed by Prime Minister Menachem Begin's reply to his protest message on Jerusalem's status, Mr. Sadat has begun an all-stops-out diplomatic campaign to gain internationa support for the Egyptian position.
In the process, he has been making conciliatory gestures toward other arab countries.
When the Egyptian leadder launched his historic peace initiative toward Israel in 1977, he felt that if he could show he was gaining concessions from Israel for himself and the Palestinians, the other Arab states would rally behind him.
Now, nearly three years later, almost the opposite has occured. Although the official Arab boycott of Egypt has lessened somewhat. Egypt's isolation is perhaps worse. The wait-and-see attitude that prevailed among some moderate Arab countries and West Bank Palestinians is eroding, and a new challenger for the Arab leadership role Egypt has always envisioned for itself -- Iraq -- has appeared on the horizon.
The Israeli parliament's vote declaring Jerusalem Israel's indivisible capital has discredited the Camp David peace accord and has hurt President Carter's credibility as an effective partner in the peace process.
Before the controversial Jerusalem bill had come to the Israeli Knesset floor , American officials had assured the Egyptians that it would not be brought to a vote before the Knesset's three-month recess.
According to Cairo officials, when Egyptians and Israelis met in washington early in July to get the stalled Palestinian autonomy talks back on the road, they had reached a "general understanding" with the Israelis that the Begin government would do nothing to encourage passage of the bill introduced by Israeli ultranationalist Geula Cohen.
But when the bill passed despite stern American, Egyptian, and international warnings, and with what seemed to many as with what seemed to many as Mr. Begin's tacit approval, President Sadat was compelled to suspend the talks while the Americans stood helplessly at the sidelines.
Now, as the Carter administration's ability to deliver and Israeli's flexibility both seem uncertain, the Egyptian government has opened the door to new initiatives from other sources.
Since the talks were suspended on Aug. 3, Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials have been meeting with West European, African, Asian, and nonaligned countries to build support for the Egyptian position in the peace process.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butrus Ghali has left for Romania for what is reported to be an appeal for a fresh Middle East initiative.
Egyptian Vice-President Hosni Mubarak will visit Britain and France this month to explain the Egyptian stance.
Director of the Foreign Ministry Ossama Al-baz, who said in May (when the talks were suspended the first time) that a European initiative in the Middle East "might not be helpful" and might "undermine" the Camp David peace process, stated in a press conference this week that Egypt "regognized Europe's active role" and "would like as many countries as possible to be active" and to contribute to of Middle East peace.
In an attempt to patch up relations with its Arab cousins, Egypt also is sending letters to several Islamic heads of state who will be attending a meeting of the Islamic Jerusalem committee in Rabat, Morocco. In the United Nations, Egypt has aligned itself with the Islamic bloc.
From the Arab world, Egypt has received both encouragement -- and a cold shoulder. The encouragement was from Morocco, whose King Hassan sent a message urging President Sadat to show a reaction to the Israeli move that "will enable us to unite with Egypt and its President." The cold shoulder came from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, who issued a joint communique on Jerusalem around which the other Arabs, without Egypt, have rallied.