Israel Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said today that Israel will not initiate a renewal of negotiations with Egypt unit U.S. supported Egyptian amendments proposed for the draft Middle East peace treaty are dropped.
Dayan, apparently shutting the door on any dialogue on Egypt's attemtp to affix "interpretative notes" to the draft treaty, said, "I think we should negotiate, but not on that basis."
"If the conditions to resume negotiations are acceptance by Israel of the new ideas, then I think there will be no talks," Dayan told the senior staff of the Foreign Ministry in a closed meeting today. His remarks were relayed to reporters by a ministry official.
"We can resume negotitations if Egypt understands that we do not accept her new demands," Dayan was quoted as saying.
The foreign minister's remarks appeared to be oblique rejection of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance' sug gestion Sunday that Israel reconsider the Egyptian amendments. Speaking on "Meet the Press," Vance said, "I think and hope that there would be a further consideration of the proposals which I took (to Israel), and that the discussions will be able to get started again."
(In Washington, White House officials yesterday adopted a low profile attitude toward the peace negotiations that contrasted with President Carter's earlier public warnings about the importance of the Dec. 17 "deadline" for reaching agreement.
("Peace will have to be made between Israel and her Arab neighbors," presidential press secretary Jody Powell said. "We are more than willing to be of assistance, but there is no way the United States, against the will of both parties, can impose peace."
(Powell said he knew of no plans for another Middle East summit conference or what additional steps in the negotiations the administration is considering. But he said there were no second thoughts in the White House about stressing the deadline date, which passed Sunday.)
Dayan said the "whole negotiating process is in a difficult situation," and he accused the State Department of compounding the problem by issuing a legal opinion in support of Egypt's attempt to dilute somewhat a treaty clause assuring that the Egyptian-Israeli pact would supersede mutual defense pacts between Egypt and other Arab states.
Also contributing to a hardening of Egypt's position, Dayan said, were threats of sanctions against Egypt by other Arab states following the November Arab League conference in Baghdad, including tacit threats by Saudia Arabia of a cutback in financial aid.
"It appears Sadat was impressed," Dayan told his staff in a lengthy review of the deterioration of the negotiations. Dayan added that "it appears the U.S. administration thinks that this is the maximum we can expect from Sadat."
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry sources dismissed as "not likely" rumors circulating in Jerusalem that Israel is preparing an alternative peace plan under which proposals for Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank would be shelved for now and that Egypt would be asked to negotitate a separate autonomy plan for the Gaza Strip.
The proposal, presumably based on the assumption that Sadat is more interested in resolving the self-determination issue on the Gaza Strip than on the West Bank, was said to be in the formative stages. The Gaza Strip was administered by Egypt from 1948 until it was lost to Israel in the 1967 war.
Israeli sources noted that Sadat has hinted such interest by insisting that the exchange of Egyptian and Israeli ambassadors occur only once Palestinian autonomy is implemented at least in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, on several occasions Egypt has suggested dealing with Gaza Strip autonomy first, and then using it as a model for the West Bank.
The sources said, however, that the initiative for such a proposal would have to come from Egypt after the signing of the treaty, since the draft treaty specifies that Egypt and Israel negotiate alone on the West Bank Gaza autonomy plan a month after signing if Jordan or West Bank arabs refuse to participate.
In other developments, Israel's parliament scheduled a debate for Tuesday on the breakdown of the talks. Prime Minister Menachem Begin is scheduled to open the debate with a defense of his policy.
The Cabinet said it plans to decide next week whether to debate the autonomy plans. Led by Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, several ministers are advocating that, in light of Egypt's new demands, the government should subject the entire autonomy scheme to a new examination.
Begin today briefed the parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee on the peace negotitations, after which committee Chairman Moshe Arens questioned the value of the U.S. role as mediator.
"I don't think it's good for the peace process and I don't think it's good for the interests of the United States, because obviously . . . the United States feels itself under considerable obligation to the Arab world, primarily Saudi Arabia.
"This means almost inevitably that when differences of opinions arise, then sooner or later the U.S. administration comes down and comes down hard on the side of the Egyptians. That's not conductive to the peace process," Arens said.