Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's history making journey to Jerusalem in November has prompted some hard thinking in Cairo and Jerusalem about long-held positions on Middle East issues.
In the decade since the Six Day War, the basic issues that divide the Middle East have changed title. What has abruptly changed - in a spectacular series of events that combined symbolism, propaganda and substance - is the willingness of some of the Middle East combatants to discuss the issues with each other in an effort to find a common ground.
During these discussions - which resume Monday in Jerusalem - Egypt and Israel have eased their once hard-line positions on some of the issues and have made a series of offers and counteroffers.
Here are some of the present positions.
Q - how did the current negotiations between Egypt and Israel come about?
A - In August after a mission by Secretary of Cyrus Vance to the Middle East ended with so apparent success. Israel prepared a drift treaty to take to New York for talks but it largely restated past hardline Israeli positions.On Oct. 1, the United States and the Soviet Union published an unusual joint declaration, leaning generally toward the Arab position, that attempted to set guidelines for a resumption of the long-dormant Geneva peace talks and for a comprehensive peace treaty. After strong Israeli criticism of this declarttion, the United States joined Israel in a statement that moved the United States back closer to Israel's position. But little actual progress was being made toward resuming peace talks.
Against this background, Sadat startled this world Nov. 9 by offering to go to Jerusalem to talk peace to Israel's Parliament. Sadat said he had thought and prayed about the move for a long time. It is clear that he had given up hope of getting peace with Israel through other channels such as U.S. or U.N. mediation, the Geneva talks or a joint Arab initiative, Sadat also felt he needed peace to prevent his country's preparious economy from collapsing. From Nov. 19-21, Sadat visited Israel while the world watched by television and on Dec. 25, Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin went to Ismailia, Egypt, for return talks with Sadat that led to the establishment of a framework for long-term negotiations, including the talks that start Monday.
Q - What issues will they be discussing?
A - The return to Arab control of territories captured by Israel in 1967, the degree of autonomy or independence that a homeland for Palestinians should have and the kind of relations that should exist between Israel and its neighboring Arab countries after the long state of hostilities has formally ended.
Q - How much land and population are involved in the occupied territories?
A - The West Bank which had been annexed and governed by Jordan before 1967, is the largest occupied territory, twice the size of Rhode Island, with an Arab population of about 640,000 and about 6,300 Israeli Jews living in 34- post 1967 settlements. The Siani, a sparsely inhabited area the size of West Virginia that was part of Egypt, has about 60,000 Bedouin inhabitants. The Gaza Strip, a densely packed area twice the size of the District of Columbia, has a population of 350,000 Arabs, about 300,000 of them Palestinian refugees. In the Sinai and Gaza Strip there are about 25 Israeli settlements with 3,500 Jewish residents. The Golan Heights, an area half the size of Rhode Island, is an Israeli-occupied part of Syria that once had a population of more than 60,000 but now only 9,200 Arabs live there, along with 2,500 Israelis in 25 settlements. East Jerusalem, previously administered by Jordan, was annexed by Israel in 1967 and now has a Jewish population of 50,000 in addition to 80,000 Arabs.
Q - Egypt and Israel have been talking about returning the Sinai to Egypt. Are they close to an agreement?
A - Israel, in a proposal approved by its Cabinet last month, said it would return the Sinai if Egypt would agree to demilitarization of the area, and would guarantee freedom of navigation in the straits leading to the Gulf of Aqaba, permit Jewish settlements to remain and allow Israeli military forces to be stationed there for a transition period of several years. Sadat has said repeatedly that Egypt would not agree to the presence of a single Israeli settlement, soldier or civilian in Sinai after the signing of a comprehensive Middle East Peace treaty.
Q - Are the positions the same on the Gaza Strip?
A - The Gaza Strip was never a part of Egypt, although Egypt administered it, and neither Egypt nor Israel envisions its return to Egyptian administration. Begin has proposed that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank be put under a form of Palestinian self-rule, with Israeli forces stationed in the two areas for security. Egypt has said that Gaza should be part of an independent Palestinian state with an Israel presence.
Q - What is Egypt's connection with the West Bank and why is it part of the current negotiations?
A - Sadat and Begin would like to have Jordan's King Hussein take part in the negotiations but Hussein has refused and, for the time being, Sadat says Egypt is negotiating on behalf of all Arab parties. He has said he does not want to enter into a separate agreement with Isreal until a comprehensive agreement between Israel and all the Arab parties has been reached.
Q - What are the two sides' positions on the West Bank?
A - For years Israel followed the unofficial Allon Plan, named for former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon. It provided for the establishment of Isreali colonies along defense lines in the occupied territories, but not in their populated Arab heartlands.The platform of Begin's Likud Party, which became the ruling party last spring declared the entire West Bank part of the biblical Lan of Israel and called for Jewish colonization throughout. Although Begin's long-held position was that Israel would permit self-rule - but not sovereignty - for Palestinians - but not for the Palestine Liberation Organization - in the West Bank with this area linked in its self-rule to Gaza and possibly to Jordan.
If there is Palestinian self-rule, Begin said, the question of sovereignty should be left unresolved and Israel would demand these conditions: security and public order would remain under Israel's control; no military force other than Israeli could be in the area; there would be no legal restrictions on further Jewish settlements. This would amount, Begin said to self-rule for Palestinian Arabs with a "mutual right of settlement and security" for what he calls "Palestinian Jews." Begin left open the possibility of "reviewing" the self-rule arrangement after five years.
Jordan formally rejected Begin's proposal and called for Israel to state its intention to "effect complete withdrawal" from the occupied territories. The Carter administration's position has been that Israel should return all occupied territories except for minor border adjustments. Egypt told Begin that any West Bank solution must provide for ultimate self-determination that could lead to an independent Palestinian state or any other arrangement desired by Arabs living there. Later Sadat said, however, that he could accept a five-year transition if it led from self-rule to self-determination for the Palestinians. This five-year transition seemed to resemble elements of both Begin's five-year review period and a suggestion by President Carter for an interim administration of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel, Jordan, the Palestinians and possibly the United Nations.
Q - Would the PLO have a role in a Palestinian homeland?
A - The PLO is an umbrella organization that includes most of the Palestinian organizations, except for some most radical splinter groups. Its covenant, however, calls for the destruction of Israel and a summit meeting of the Arab states in 1974 designated the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Begin in a speech this month asserted that Israel would not accept a PLO role in the administration of a Palestinian homeland, saying this could lead to Communist and radical control of the area and present a "mortal danger" to Israel. Sadat said last month that the PLO, by joining radical Arab states at a November summit meeting in condemning Egypt's initiative toward Israel, had forfeited its role as the representative of the Palestinians. President Carter, in a Dec. 15 press conference, criticized the PLO as "completely negative" in the response to Sadat's efforts and said the PLO had "in effect removed themselves from serious consideration" in the peace process. Carter's position on a Palestinian homeland, as stated to Sadat in Aswan this month, is that a peace settlement must recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Heights. Syria has demanded return of the entire territory. [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] people and enable the Palestinians to participate in the determination of their future." Sadat said this view was identical to his, Begin expressed satisfaction with it. Observers noted that the position was neutral enough to be taken as embracing either side's position.
Q - Would East Jerusalem be part of a Palestinian West Bank state?
A - Sadat, along with the entire Arab world, insists on the return to Arab control of East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City and the leading shrines of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967 and does not consider it part of the West Bank. Begin said last month that Israel is determined that Jerusalem remain "one-city" with free access to all the holy shrines and he raised the possibility of "self-rule of religious representatives of their holy shrines." The U.S. position, expressed by national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski on Jan. 8, is that any Middle East settlement should provide for an "undivided" Jerusalem, not partitioned but perhaps, with arrangements made "responsive to religions and political sensitivities of the parties concerned."
Q - Where does all this discussion leave the Golan Heights?
A - Syria has adamantly refused to enter into negotiations with Israel. Because of this, and the fact that the Golan Heights would not be part of any Palestinian homeland, this territory so far has not come up in the Egyptian-Israeli talks. Israel's position is not believed to have changed since Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister, declared two years ago, "I can't see Israel, even in the context of a peace treaty, going down from the Golan [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]