Egyptian President Anwar Sadat said yesterday that "serious negotiations" have been going on privately between Egypt and Israel and that the results of these talks should be known "within a few days."
Sadat's disclosure came amid growing indications in Cairo and Jerusalem that the formal peace talks, broken off by Egypt at the political level and by Israel at the military level, could resume at least at the military level next week.
Egypt's semiofficial press softened its tone toward Israel yesterday - a move that Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin said Monday was necessary before Israel would agree to resume talks.
In Jerusalem, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said last night that it is "possible" that the Israeli-Egyptian military talks will resume in Cairo next week. He was commenting on reports in the Israeli press and state radio that the Israeli Cabinet is likely to agree Sunday to send Defense Minister Ezer Weizman back to Cairo.
The resumption of the military talks is seen by observers in both countries, however, as primarily a symbolic gesture stressing the willingness of the two sides to continue talking.There is no indication that they have moved closer to resolving their differences over the Sinai Peninsula, the chief focus of the military talks.
There is also no indication that the political talks, which dealt with the broader aspects of a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement, are near resumption.
Sadat called Egypt's foreign minister home from the political talks in Jerusalem a week ago, accusing Israel of being interested only in partial solutions. Begin kept Israel's defense minister from returning to the military talks in Cairo on Sunday, accusing the Egyptian press of anti-Semitism in their attacks on him.
While there were reports in Cairo that the government had ordered the press to end its sharp attacks, other observers doubted this. Government - or American - pressure probably was not required, they said, once the Egyptian establishment realized the danger to Sadat's peace effort that Begin's continued complaints could cause.
Sadat met yesterday for the second time in two days with U.S. Ambassador Hermann Eilts, reportedly to hear American proposals for reviving the peace talks.
Asked by reporters whether negotiations were going on with Israel behind the scenes, according to United Press International, replied: "Yes, serious negotiations and an exchange of views."
Asked when news of the resumption of the talks could be expected, Sadat said, "Within a few days."
Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel and other Egyptian officials have strenuously denied that the intensely personal attacks on Begin in the Cairo press were intended to be anti-Semitic.
Once official in Cairo attributed the attacks to "writers who were not careful" but other observers said it was unlikely that the attacks in the different papers would begin and end in lock-step without some guidance from the government.
Even the English-language Egyptian Gazette, which carried some of the harshest attacks on Begin as recently as Tuesday, devoted its editorial yesterday to problems of the construction industry.
In Israel, where officials were closely watching the Egyptian press for indications of Cairo's official mood, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said last night that "there are signs that the Egyptian press attacks are subsiding."
Resumption of the military talks would put the two sides back into the difficult issue of the Sinai territory. Egypt has demanded that Israel return all of the Sinai Peninsula, which it captured in the 1967 war, and remove all its soldiers, civilians settlements.
Informed sources close to the negotiations say in Jerusalem that Israel's demand to maintain the dozen settlements it has in the Rafiah area of northern Sinai has drawn increasingly stronger opposition from Sadat.
The sources said that Weizman discussed with Sadat the idea of Israel giving Egypt a part of Israel's Negev desert territory in exchange for the Rafiah area, which sits strategically astride the Mediterranean coastal approaches to the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State Alfred Atherton continued yesterday to consult with Israeli officials on the drafting of a text acceptable to both sides on the future of the Palestinians. The text would be part of a joint declaration on guidelines for an overall peace settlement.
Atherton is scheduled to meet Begin today and is understood to have been waiting to hear from Cairo whether Sadat wants him to go there with the Israeli viewpoints on the Palestinian issue. [LINE ILLEGIBLE] forth more clearly than ever before his willingness to have a U.N. peace-keeping force in the new state of Palestine," Findley said.
In addition, "he states his desire to end the state of belligerency with Israel," said Findley.
On the negative side, Findley said "Arafat left unclear whether, once a Palestinian state were established on the West bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza trip, it would renounce all further territorial claims against Israel."
Arafat also said that such a Palestinian state, "would not establish diplomatic relation with Israel," Findley said, therefore refusing "what must be a central principle of a peace treaty and what is critical to Israel's survival."
Findley said Arafat also opposed the demilitarization of a Palestinian state, on grounds that the right to arm is an attribute of a sovereign state.
Nevertheless, Findley maintained, the United States should respond to Arafat's strong desire to open a dialogue" and his claims for risking the pursuit of "a moderate course."