President Anwar Sadat, in a major speech billed as a definitive assessment of his Middle East peace campaign, showed no indication yesterday that he is prepared to budge at all from the positions he took during the abortive negotiations with Israel in January.
Sadat said that he was convinced that his peace initiative was building an irresistible pressure of world opinion that would inevitably force Israel to accept Egypt's terms for peace.
He indicated that he is content to wait for Israel to summon "the courage to take the decisions that have to be taken." He said he could not discuss all the diplomatic contacts that have been taking place in an effort to get the peace talks resumed, but said nothing to indicate that direct negotiations would begin again in the near future.
This does not mean, Sadat insisted, that his peace initiative has faltered or failed, as his critics are saying. Rather, he said, "it is growing, getting deeper and more positive" as it convinces the world, including many Israelis and American Jews, that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is "instransigent and committed to the past."
"Millions of Americans and Europeans, who were blined to the real facts in the Middle East, today are supporting Egypt and the Arab cause," he said. Sadat claimed that "the conscience of the world sees that all Israel's arguments in the past 30 years have been unmasked in the first real test of peace."
Sadat spoke approvingly of the Middle East policies of President Carter, saying he was satisfied with American explanations of remarks by Carter published over the weekend that caused consternations here as an apparent shift in U.S. positions that were accepted earlier by Egypt.
"The American ambassador said that commitment of President Carter to me has not changed," Sadat said in a speech that coincided with Begin's visit to Washington. "Mr. Carter's attitude should be fully respected. We find that President Carter has committed himself to U.N. Security Council resolution) 242 and he is committed to the fact that it is illegal for Israel to have settlements in the occupied territories," he said.
Sadat said Egypt is seeking peace out of principle, not out of economic or political desperation, but he acknowledged that "we have achieved much more abroad that we have at home."
Saying that "we have to be frank" about this country's economic difficulties, Sadat announced several moves aimed at improving the lot of workers in state-owned industries and at defusing criticism of his domestic policies.
He said he had instructed Prime Minister Mamdouh Salem to appoint a new Cabinet immediately to eliminate the bureaucratic obstacles to economic progress and remove ministers who are not performing their jobs adequately.
No details were given, but experienced observers here said it was likely that Salem and Minister of War Mohammed Gamassi would remain in office and that Abdel Moneim Kaisouni, the deputy prime minister for economic affairs and minister of planning, would be replaced.
Noting that Egypt's economic liberalization has resulted in a consumer buying spree and inflation without a matching increase in wages and production, Sadat said the government would establish a chain of consumer cooperatives at which workers in the public-sector industries could shop at fixed prices.
In a gesture to his critics, Sadat said he had asked the prime minister to review a luxury real estate development under construction on the sandy plateau next to the Great Pyramids to see if it should be allowed to go ahead. The protect has been denounced as a scandalous giveaway of land and an encroachment on Egypt's cultural heritage, although it was approved by the parliament.
This project "could be right or it could be wrong," Sadat observed, but "you have to care about the people's feelings."
Sadat was speaking to workers at a Labor Day rally in a Cairo suburb. May Day, the traditional labor day celebrated on May 1 in much of the world, coincided with Spring Day, also a national holiday, in Egypt so the labor day observance was held a day later. The focal point of Sadat's speech was the Middle East peace efforts.
He noted that when Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman came here in March in an unsuccessful effort to get the peace talks started again, "We said immediately that he had nothing new that could change the situation in any way."
Sadat made it clear that he has still heard "nothing new" from Israel, but he said, "The whole world now agrees that there should be full withdrawal from occupied Arab territories and restoration of Palestinian rights; the foremost of which is the right of self-determination, the right of the Palestinians to their own homeland, their own state."
He said Israel will have to recognize that its outdated ideas must yield before the worlds' warning that "nobody would allow this historic occasion to slip away without the achievement of peace."
Sadat was hardly more conciliatory to his Arab rejectionist critics that he was toward the Israelis. Dismissing them as "political teenagers," he said Egypt did not rule out a restoration of diplomatic relations with them but would not accept" insults to the Egyptian people."
On the whole, Sadat's speech was more noteworthy for what he did not say about the peace initiative than what he did say. He offered nothing new to Israel, made no move to renew to Israel, made no move to reshowed no inclination to put distance between himself and Carter or warm up to the Soviet Union, and did not write the whole thing off and threaten to resign.
All those moves have been predicted, or hoped for, by one group or another in recent weeks.