IT IS GOOD NEWS that the secretary of state has succceeded in getting Egyptian and Israeli officials together again-this weekend in Brussels-to explore how to revive negotiations for a peace treaty. That makes it an opportune moment to inspect the handful of issues still unresolved in the draft treaty, which consists of the text (preamble and nine articles), three annexes and a "side letter." We offer here an analysis of the five particular points in dispute.
1. Article IV, paragraph 4, says agreed security arrangements "may at the request of either Party be reviewed, and amended by mutual agreement."
Last week, Egypt, finding "may" too vague, asked for language saying in effect "will." Sensitive to Arab charges of allowing abridgment of its sovereignty, Egypt also asked that arrangements be reviewed in five years. These changes were put in an "interppretive note," a form created to satisfy the American insistence on not tampering with the treaty text. But Israel said the requirement for review, and in five years, suggested impermanence and coincided too closely with the treaty's five-year period of Palestinian autonomy. Our view is that the differences involve lint-picking.
2. Article VI, paragraph 2, commits the parties "to fulfill in good faith their obligations under this Treaty, without regard to action or inaction of any other party and independently of any instrument external to this Treaty."
The Egyptians feared Israel might take that "any instrument" as Camp David and slough off the Israeli commitment there to link a Sinai pact with agreement on the West Bank. Last week they offered a second "interpretive note" to close this loophole. Israelis protested that the new language would make the carrying out of a treaty hostage to agreement on autonomy. We think it is essential that Israeli negotiate in good faith on autonomy, and equally essential to spare an Egyptian-Israeli treaty the predictably heavy uncertainties of talks on autonomy. The two can be squared.
3. Article VI, paragraph 5, says "Subject to Article 103 (collective self-defense) of the United Nations Charter, in the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Parties under the present Treaty and any of their other obligations, the obligations under this Treaty will be binding and implemented."
After Moshe Dayan crowed that this forced Egypt to repudiate its Arab allies, Anwar Sadat demanded new language saying that it didn't. Instead, the administration proposed its own "memorandum of law" stating in so many words that, if Israel attacks an Egyptian ally, Egypt can respond, but if an Egyptian ally attacks Israel, Egypt won't respond. The Israelis objected, citing the difficulties of defining aggression and determining the aggressor. We think the actual relationship between Cairo and Jerusalem will overwhelm any language, and the language should not be allowed to become a stumbling block.
4. Annex III, article 1, says "The Parties agree to . . . exchange ambassadors upon completion of the interim withdrawal." This ties with the fifth point.
5. The "side letter" to the treaty says negotiations over West Bank-Gaza autonomy will go on "with the goal of" holding elections by the end of 1979.
Israel and Egypt had finally accepted that, for withdrawal in Sinai, Egypt would exchange ambassadors in nine months. Meanwhile, meeting Cairo's "mandatory" demand, the administration wrote a "crucial and integral" side letter endorsing an autonomy timetable. In accepting the treaty text and annexes on Nov. 11, Israel rejected that letter. Thus thwarted in one form of linkage, the Egyptians last week in Cairo introduced another-linking autonomy (at least in Gaza) to the exchange of ambassadors. The Americans knew that this form was new and would upset the Israelis but found it "reasonable." The Israelis gagged.
Our view is that it's too much. In return for a treaty, Israel is yielding all of Egypt's territory soon and is entering a process designed (by Americans and Egyptians, anyway) to extrtact the rest of its war-won territory later. This is a great deal. It is unfair and unwise to rush that process or overload it further. It will buckle, leaving not even an Egyptian-israeli treaty behind.
We would not underestimate the seriousness of some of the points at issue, or the stickiness of the political contexts in which they are set. But we think it adds a helpful perspective to realize that the points are relatively insignificant, when weighed against what Egypt and Israel have already agreed on and, especially, against the bleakness they would face if Camp David broke down. This is why it is heartening to see Cyrus Vance moving to get negotiations under way again.