Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said today that the compromise treaty which Israel has agreed to sign cannot be tampered with, and that Egypt can "take it or leave it" as it now is written.
The foreign minister said the only legitimate purpose for the Israeli delegation to return to the Washington peace talks would be to initial the compromise draft with the Egyptian delegates. He said the Israeli negotiators will not go to renegotiate any aspects of the compromise draft.
Emphasizing that his warning applies as well to Prime Minister Menachem Begin's hard-line critics at home, Dayan termed the draft treaty a "package that cannot be opened" without unraveling all of the progress made in a long difficult year of negotiations.
Moreover, Dayan said, if the Egyptian-Israeli pact is not signed, there will be no beginning of negotiations for Palestinian Arab self-governance on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Israel might then unilaterally impose a "process of liberalization" in the occupied territories that would be different than negotiated autonomy.
His aides took pains to characterize the "take it or leave it" remark as "a description of the situation rather than an ultimatum," and added that it applied "equally to all our Cabinet."
Dayan's strongly worded warning was made to senior staff members of the Foreign Ministry in a closed meeting and then relayed to correspondents by a ministry official.
Dayan was quoted by the official as saying there is nothing more for the Israeli and Egyptian negotiating delegations to talk about - at least with respect to the bilateral treaty - because it is a "sealed package."
Speaking to his aides in Hebrew for most of his talk. Dayan switched to English when he said the Egyptians are now in a position of "take it or leave it."
Israeli's Cabinet in a reversal of its position of three weeks ago, declared yesterday that it is ready to sign a U.S.-proposed compromise treaty that contains an implicit link between the Egypt-Israel bilateral treaty and the issue of autonomy for West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians.
Earlier this month, the Cabinet sent the draft back to Washington as unacceptable, a rebuff that triggered a spate of new Egyptian demands and slowed the momentum of the peace process.
In approving the draft now, the Cabinet rejected outright Egyptian demands for a fixed timetable to implement West Bank-Gaza autonomy and for an Egyptian police presence in the Gaza Strip.
Dayan's remarks today seemed to exclude not only Israeli consideration of those substantive demands, but any Egyptian attempt to alter the language of the draft as it now reads.
"It is impossible now to open any of these paragraphs." Dayan was quoted as saying. He told his staff that doing so would "create havoc" with the negotiations.
Although Sadat is said to be holding firm on his demand for a timetable, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin also closed the door on it today, saying that it would be an "obstacle to peace."
"We cannot be tied up to any timetable," said Yadin, who represents a different faction from Dayan in Begin's Cabinet. There were crucial problems. "There are other partners, and if the other partners do not agree, how can we fix any timetable? If we fix a timetable and nothing is reached then we shall be accused, so to say, of not fulfilling our obligations."
Begin also spoke against further changes to the draft, saying as if he were addressing Sadat, "to make possible the signing of the treaty, we said we give up our amendments. Now, please don't you demand to make these changes which you proposed, and actually make the articles insignificant." Begin was speaking to a group of American state legislators last night. Dayan also stood fast on his insistence that a "priorities clause" be retained in the pact at all costs. The clause states that an Egyptian-Israeli treaty will supercede in priority and agreements between Egypt and other nations. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, in an apparent attempt to placate his Arab critics, has sought to have it removed.
"Well, let's says Syria decides to reoccupy the Golan Heights and she says she needs to do this for her own defense. What will happen to our treaty if it doesn't have priority and Egypt says she has a contractural obligation to help Syria. This obviously is an impossible situation," Sayan's aide said in summarizing the foreign minister's remarks.