On the eve of the Egyptian delegation's departure for crucial talks in Israel, President Anwar Sadat has expressed a deeply pessimistic view of the chances for success and has criticized. Israel in bitter terms for its response to his peace initiative.
Saying that he now had "absolutely no hope" of reaching agreement on principles of a Middle East peace settlement, Sadat asserted that the Israelis have offered him "nothing" is exchange for the unprecedented concessions he has made to them. He warned that Israel's attitude could bring about a new wave of Arab hostility toward the Jewish state.
"Israel is sowing the winds and therefore will reap the storms," Sadat said in an interview with the Cairo weekly magazine October, to be published Sunday. The text of the interview was distributed here today by the official Middle East News Agency apparently timed to the gathering in Israel Sunday of the Egyptian negotiators and U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
Sadat again raised the possibility of quitting his job should his peace initiative fail. "I will turn over my post to somebody else and he will have to complete this mission or decide on something else or some other method," Sadat said.
Well-placed Egyptian officials have been predicting that Sadat would make a maneuver of this kind, adopting what one called a "carrot and stick approach" to the negotiations with Israel - offering Egyptian concessions and threatening Israel with dire consequences if it failed to move closer toward peace terms Egypt could accept.
Nevertheless, the strong Language used by Sadat appears to be more than a negotiating tactic. There is evidence that he feels a sense of bitterness and betrayal over what he feels is Israel's refusal to give any ground on some indispensible principles for peace.
[Egyptian newspapers which had planned banner headliners for their reports about Sadat's interview were dered by authorities to kill the story, according to a Los Angeles Times report from Cairo. As a result, its audience in Egypt will be limited to the relatively small (140,000) circulation of October magazine.]
[In Israel, Prime Minister Menahem Begin expressed regret at Sadat's interview with October, Washington Post correspondent H.D.S. Greenway reported Begin said he would not respond to its substance and asked that the upcoming negotiations be given a chance.]
"It is not my divine mission to pamper the Israelis, talk about them and their sufferings and justify their mistakes which will serve them more than it will serve us," Sadat said.
Sadat has staked a great deal on his overture to the Israelis, but he and members of his negotiating team feel that the Israelis, have failed, wilfully sincerity of Egypt's willingness to have peace and the determination of the Egyptians not to surrender in order to obtain it.
At his joint press conference with Begin on Dec. 26, Sadat said the sticking point in the negotations was the future of the West Bank and the status of the Palestinians, while the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula was a "side issue" because it was understood the Israelis would withdraw from it.
But judging by what Sadat has said in the past three days, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, in a press conference after talks with British Prime Minister James Callaghan and in the October interview, he has made clear that he thinks the talks have gone backward even from that deadlock.
"I have offered security and legality," the objectives Israel has always professed to seek, Sadat told October, but "I received nothing in exchange I have proferred my hand with honesty and the rest depends on them."
He said "Israel will regret that it has given birth to new springs of hatred, bitterness and fanaticism against it . . . This will be a great loss for Israel."
That is the essence of the message Sadat thought he had gotton across to the Israelis - that this is, as one observer put it, the only bus to peace and if the Israelis don't get on it, their future will inevitably be more difficult than their past.
But instead of moving to meet his minimum terms, which have softened considerably since the first laid them out in his Knesset speech in November, the Israelis have sought to use their concern for security to perpetuate their occupation and settlement of Egyptian land in the Sinai.
As for the possibility of wrapping up the Sinai question and moving on to a joint declaration of principles dealing with the West Bank and the Palestinians, Sadat told October that "I think we will have another stand." He did not say what he was referring to by "another stand," but he did say elsewhere in the interview, according to an unofficial franslation that "my peace initiative has not ended."
Sadat said that Israel "wants to take but not to give," and he listed what he said he had offered the Israelis to persuade them to take their troops and their settlers and their air bases out of the Sinai Peninsula.
He said that he had proposed the establishment of demilitarized zones on both sides of the Egyptian-Israeli border, the creation of early warning stations, a zone in which the deployment of Egyptian forces would be limited, international patrols at the vital promontory of Sharm el Sheikh at the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and the creation of a standing joint committee, presumably to monitor compliance with a peace agreement.
If all that was not enough to convince the Israelis that they had no security concerns from their Egyptian front, he said he would be willing to offer "a declaration of agreement on peaceful coexistence, opening the borders and normalizing relations" - which strongly suggests that he would give all that, in exchange for little more than recovery of the Sinai, which would closely resemble the bilateral peace with Israel sadat has said he would never accept.
It is not clear when Sadat gave his interview to the magazine, but it was apparently after the negotiations this week of the Israel-Egypt military committee, in which their air bases in the Sinai to reassure themselves about Sharm el Sheikh.
In the Egyptian view, Israel's security concerns are understandable after 30 years of Arab hostility, but the Israelis cannot have peace if they continue to use those concerns as an excuse for expansion beyond the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East War.