The outlines of the President Anwar Sadat's Middle East negotiating strategy and objectives have begun to emerge from the confusion of the diplomatic shock treatments he has administered over the past three weeks.
While his critics him as a desperate man lurching from one hasty initiative to another, he is seen here as a shrewd and self-confident leader thinks he know how to get it.
His program is to offer Israel, through direct negotiations, essentially the same trade that has been talked about fruitlessly for years - oeace for territory. He is seeking an agreement in principle that Israel will surrender the Arab territories captured in the 1967 war, and allow the creation there of some Palestian homeland or entirely in exchange for recognition by and peace with its Arab neighbours. The difference now lies not in the substance of the deal sadat wants but in how he is going about getting it.
Sadat hopes that his "Lone Ranger" campaign will induce Israel to accept the fundamental principle of trading territory for true peace. If it does, hw will submit that agreement to an Arab summit conference, confident that it will be approved. That will leave the details, timing and terms of implementation to be negotiated separately between Israel and each of its neighbors - meaning that Sadat his deal on behalf of all the Arabs legitimized by an Arab summit, could move quickly towards full peace on a bilateral basis even if other states such as Syria still dragging their feet on hanging over details.
This assessment of Sadat's thinking was pieced together from conversations with highly placed Egyptian and foreign sources and from tha public statements of Sadat himself. Sadat has given many interviews to the Western press over the past week, each adding another piece or two to the total puzzle.
Sadat is fully prepared to negotiate with Israel alone for the agreement in principle. He knows he cannot negotiate on behalf of Syria over, say, the delineation of a demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights, but if those detailed talks should drag on for years, he wants to be able to move quickly ion the parts of the implementation affecting only Egypt and israel.
Sadat has great confidence and trust in President Carter, and is counting on his help to nudge the Israelis toward agreement in relinquishing the occupied territories. His decision to go to Jerusalem and to invite Israel to take part in a conference here was motivated in part by a desire to help Carter defend himself against criticism from American supporters of Israel. In addition, Sadat's trip to Israel convicted him that the vast majority of Israelis want peace. he is courting Israeli public opinion- by such measure as allowing Israel based journalists in Egypt - in the hope of swaying Prime Minister Menahem Begins.
If the United States helps with Israel, Sadat is planning to handle the Arabs himself. He has already sent a trusted emissary to Saudi Arabia to tell ths Saudis in strong terms that he is displeased by their criticism of his moves and that they have no choice but to support him unless they want the radicals and rejectionists to prevail.
Sadat says he has an agreement with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to be flexible on the negotiations. The PLO has been informing him secretly that its angry denunciations of his trip to Israel and its attacks on the Cairo conference are for public consumption to a negotiated settlement achieved through Sadat's initiative.
Sadat has also been assured through diplomatic channels that Syria will not align itself irretrievably with the rejectionist camp or seek to sabotage Sadat's campaign, as long as it keeps up momentum. He agress with President Carter's assessment in his Nov. 30 press conference "There is no doubt in my mind that President (Hafez) Assad wants peace with Israel" - and believes Syria will eventually join the negotiating process he has begun.
Sadat has now said many times that he is prepared for a Cairo preparatory conference, and even Geneva, without the participation of any other Arabs, if he has to, because he hopes to bring back a deal they will be able to accept. The key appears to be the dinstinction between an agreement in principle on peace for territory and full agreements on timing, staging and details, which would have to follow and could take much longer.
Sadat brought this up in an American television interview this week. He said:
"Egypt and Israel have to negotiate a comprehensive settlement. As to the details of everything between Israel and any other Arab country, they will have to discuss it together. Basically I am concerned with two fundamental questions - the evacution of all occupied Arab lands after the war of 1967, not only the Egyptian lands but all, all the Arab lands. The second question is the settling of the Palestinian question, which is the essence of the whole thing. Well, if we agree on these two points, I'll submit the comprehensive settlement to an Arab summit conference to decide upon. Every Arab country has to discuss with Israel, as I did the details of any agreement."
If Sadat could go before an Arab summit conference and announce that Israel had agreed in principle to relinguish the occupied territories and allow the establishment of some Palestinian entity, even if only over time and after extended bargaining, he would certainly get the votes to endorse this arrangement.
That would enable him to go after the peace he wants under the protective umbrella of Arab League endorsement, avoiding the one take, a straight bilateral peace treaty with Israel. Sadat has asserted as often as he is asked that he would not consider this option and trhe United States is understood to be strongly encouraging him to adhere to this resolve.
Sadat reportedly agress with the American analysts that a bilateral agreement would not only jeopardize his own political and economic secutiry as other Arab statea turned against him, but also squatter all the diplomatic effort that has been expended so far intrying to bring Syria around and in trying to find an acceptable formula on Palestinian representation.
Within this broad framework there remains a great uncertainty about the format, timing and agenda of the proposed negotiations, even of the Cairo conference that the Egyptians themselves are organizing. Egyptian officilas insist that the conference here is to be informal. Yet exactly what is to be deceded here and what the next step will be remain uncertain.
The Foreign Ministry said last night Egypt would offer substantive proposals for a comprehensive settlement based on the five principles of Sadat's speach in the Israel parliament - full Israeli withdrawal fron the occupied territories, creation of a Palestinian state, the right of all states in the region to live peacefully within secure borders, renunciation force, and termination of the state of bellegerency.
But no one here expects Cairo conference, which will be conducted delegates below the rank of foreign minister, to reach agreement on an issue like full Israeli withdrawal join the occupied territories.
The fundamental disparity between the Israeli and Arab positions on withdrawal from the territories remains. The Israelis have not given the Eyptians any indication that they prepared to accept the demand for full withdrawal. Sadat's inducements to them appear more psychological than material - the lure of peace, the pressure of American opinion, the hope that their children can live more secure lives, a new understanding that the Arabs really do not any longer seek to destroy their country.
If Sadat cannot achieve this fundamental breakthrough, it will matter [WORD ILLEGIBLE] whether or not other Arabs take [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in the negotiations. Sadat told West German magazine. "Should it [WORD ILLEGIBLE] out take I have made a mistake, when I am man enough to say I have made a mistake and to offer my resignation. Then I would have said, 'Assad was right, he should now take over the rudder.'"
The visit to jerusalem meant that the conferense ahs been torpedoed."
Fahmi said Libyan head of state Muammar Qaddafi had promised to send 500 tanks to Egypt to strengthen its bargaining position at Geneva. "Now, in my opinion, everything is finished," he said, adding that Sadat's Nov. 9 announcement that he has prepared to visit Israel came as a shock to his closest advisers.
Fahmi said Sadat had told him about the proposal two months before, that he ahd advised against it, and that nothing more was mentioned of the oidea until Sadat's parliamentary address.