Israel and Egypt exchanged Arab Prisoners for Israeli dead today in the U.N. zone that separates their forces in the Sinai.
In this small desert oasis on the Israeli side of the disengagement line, among date palms and a few scattered buildings destroyed in bygone wars, Israel's leaders, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Defense Minister Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, waited for 11 flag-draped coffins to be handed over by the Egyptians. Egypt received 47 Arab prisoners who had been held in Israeli jails.
Two of the 11 coffins contained the bodies of Israeli spies, Moshe Marzouk and Shmuel Azar, who were hanged in Cairo 22 years ago for being involved in what later became known as the Lavon affair-an espionage scandal that rocked the Israeli government a generation ago. The rest were soldiers killed in the 1973 war.
Defense Minister Shimon Peres said Israel is not aware of any more Israeli bodies left in Egypt and that today's exchange culminated negotiations that had been going on since the 1973 cease-fire.
Peres said later that he was not happy with the way the Egyptians had bargained over the exchange.
Israeli officials complained before the first such exchange two years ago that then Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger had told them he had received a commitment from Egypt to return the bodies with no demand for prisoners in exchange. The condition that prisoners be returned had come at the last minute, the Israeli officials said.
In the 1975 exchange, 35 Israeli bodies were returned for a group of Arabs in Israeli prisons.
A pool reporter who witnessed today's exchange said that the Egyptians had an honor guard for the fallen soldiers but none for the spies.
The Arabs who were returned were not war prisoners but persons serving sentences for what Israel considered terrorist acts. They were released in two groups along with their wives and children - 19 on Thursday and 28 today. According to peres, the Egyptians had asked for 58, but 11 had asked not to be returned to Egypt. All the prisoners were questioned by the Red Cross within the U.N. buffer zone to see if they wanted to be repatriated to Egypt.
According to a pool report, one man refused because he lived in the Israel-occupied zone and he said he wanted to stay and help his brother who is in trouble. His sentence had only a year to run. Another , a fervent member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said he wanted to stay because Palestine was his home. The prisoners were from either the Gaza Strip or the occupied Sinai rather than the occupied West bank of Jordan.
Rabin, who has said he will turn over his duties to Peres on Friday because of a financial scandal, seemed withdrawn and preoccupied. He wandered alone on the desert close to the coffins of the Israeli dead after the bried ceremonyas the press and others crowded around Peres.
[A helicopter carrying Rabin, Allon and other top Israeli officials to the Sinai ceremoney had to make a emergency landing in Gaza today after developing engine trouble, Israeli television reported. It said no one was hurt and that the leaders changed to another aircraft.]
The return of the bodies of the spies hanged in 1955 recalled the Lavon affair, named after the then Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon. Isralie agents fire-bombed American libraries in Cairo and Alexandria in the early 1950s to create bad will between Egypt and the United States. The spies were caught and a resulting political scandal in Israel in the early 1960s caused the resignation of Lavon, who insisted he had never given the order to mount such an operation.
In 1963 the scandal caused Prime Minister David Ben Gurion to resign and call for new elections.
The mystery of just who gave the order for the clandestine operation has never been solved. The Israeli agent in charge, Max Benet, committed suicide in a Cairo cell and Marzouk and Azar, who were Egyptians jews, were hanged.