Egypt made public yesterday its proposal for a negotiated peace with Israel - a proposal that is still far removed from the Israeli position but one that is expected by both sides to permit a resumption of the stalled peace talks.
The proposal, as expected, calls for Israeli withdrawal in five years from the occupied West Bank of the Jordan and from the Gaza Strip, and provides for an Egyptian-Jordanian guarantee security may be negotiated by the three countries.
Despite its advance billing as a "peace plan," however, the Egyptian document is far less than a comprehensive blueprint for a negotiated peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. It omits any mention of Syria, the occupied Golan Heights or the Sinai Peninsula, and leaves the future of the Palestinians inside and outside the occupied territories as a matter for future negotiations.
The document represents Egypt's opening position at the negotiations with Israel that are expected to resume in London under American auspices later this month.
[In Jerusalem, officials said the Egyptian plan, while unacceptable in its present form, probably would not prevent Israel from participating at the upcoming foreign ministers meeting in London. Story, page 9.]
But the Egyptian paper is so far removed from the Israeli view of how the negotiations ought to proceed that U.S. intervention with compromise formulas seems certain to be necessary.
President Carter has said that the United States is prepared to play that part in the negotiations. Egyptian officials, believing Carter is more attuned to their views than to those of Israel, say they are counting on it. Some of the phrasing in the English version of the Egyptian text, such as the call for a solution to "the Palestinian question in all its aspects," is identical to wording already accepted by the United States.
In essence, the Egyptain formulation only restates the fundamental difference in approach that kept Israel and Egypt from reaching any agreements in their direct negotiations last winter.
Egypt wants Israel to commit itself to withdrawin from the territories, while Cairo promises only to negotiate security arrangements, and the question of the nature of the peace is left up in the air. The Israelis want assurances on the latter points before they agree to surrender any of the territories, let alone all of them.
The Egyptians paper calls for Israel to withdraw its military forces, and its civillian settlements, from the West Bank and Gaza after five years. The Israeli military government of those areas would be ended immediately - a point on which Israel has already agreed - and a five-year transition period would ensure.
Details of the transitional period would be negotiated by Egypt, Jordan, Israel "representatives of the Palestinian people." Jordan would resume "supervision" of the West Bank and Egypt "supervision" of the Gaza Strip, as they had before the 1967 war. Direct administrative authority under Egypt and Jordan would be exercisex by "representatives of the Palestinian people," who at the end of the five years "will be able to determine their own future."
The transition from Israeli to Arab control over the West Bank and Gaza would be supervised by the United Nations.
Egyptian officials argued yesterday that some elements of their plan should find favor with Israelis because they represent substantial Egyptian concessions.
The Egyptian text makes no mention of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with which Isreal refused to deal. It says nothing about an independent Palestinian state, which Israel refuses to accept. It appears to offer Israel peace with Egypt and perhaps Jordan while Israeli troops still occupy Syrian territory on the Gloan Heights, instead of demanding full Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territory as a precondition.
While calling for negotiations on U.N. resolutions that would requre that some Palestinians be allowed to return to Israeli territory and that does not specify that all these resolutons must be carried out in full as a precondition to peace.
However palatable these points may be to the Israelis, there are far more matters on which the Egyptian draft seems irreconcilable with fundamental Israeli positions.
The Egyptian paper specifies that Israel must withdraw from East Jerusalem, perhaps the one point on which the Israelis are most certain never to give in.
It contains no commitment from Egypt to grant Israel diplomatic recognition or any other international acceptance if Israel does in fact give up the territories.
In this sense, the document is no more than an Egyptian reply to the Israeli plan for the future of the West Bank and Gaza that Egypt rejected last December. That plan offered the Palestinians only limited autonomy with an eventual choice between Jordanian and Israeli citizenship.
From the Israeli point of view, another likely flaw in the Egyptian proposal is that it assumes Jordanian participation, not only in the negotiating process but in the security guarantees to be offered to Israel. Egypt has not been able to deliver Jordanian participation in any of the previous rounds of talks, and the new document would put Israel in the position of having to offer sweeteners to entice the Jordanians in even before the negotiations began.
Egyptian sources contended yesterday, however, that if the Israelis would let it be known, however unofficially and informally, that they were in fact prepared t relinquish the West Bank, that would be enough to overcome the hesitation of Jordan's King Hussein about the talks.
Hussein, who has close ties to Syria, an opponent of this entire negotiating process, has been unwilling to sacrifice his standing as an anti-Israeli Arab leader, hostile to the Jewish state as long as Arab lands remain occupied, without some advance assurance that it would be worth his while to enter the talks.
Special correspondent Rami Gkhouri reported the following from Amman:
Jordanian officials yesterday withheld comment on segments of the Egyptian proposals that would have Jordan assume administration of the occupied West Bank for a five-year period. The official Jordan News Agency reported Sadat's proposal without comment.
Information Minister Adnan Abu Odeh said an official statement on Jordan's reaction may be issued today.
Some officials say privately that any Jordanian reaction to the Sadat plan may appear to signal Jordan's desire to resume control of the West Bank, while the 1974 Arab summit at Rabat conferred sole legitimate representation of the West Bank an Gaaz Palestinians upon the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Officials also say privately that it would require a new consensus by an Arab summit allowing Jordan to negotiate on behalf of the West Bank population for Jordan to get actively involved in the current peace-making drive.
The other method by which Jordan would join the peace efforts now under way would be through an agreement between Jordan and the PLO, although this is considered unlikely given the current state of cool relations between the too.