Israel's Cabinet today approved compromise proposals on the last two unresolved issues of a peace treaty with Egypt, paving the way for expected endorsement by the parliament next week and signing ceremonies shortly afterward.
All but one of the 16 ministers present voted for the compromises, which were worked out here and in Cairo during President Carter's six-day shuttle trip that ended dramatically yesterday with the announcement of the unexpected breakthrough.
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, looking tired and his voice hoarse from six hours of debate, told reporters he telephoned Carter and told him "the last two outstanding issues were resolved today by a positive decision by the Cabinet."
Only one Cabinet member, Education Minister Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party, abstained from the balloting. Transport Minister Chaim Landau, an outspoken critic of the treaty, left the session early to attend a funeral and did not vote. But he said he would have voted against the compromises.
The Cabinet will meet again on Sunday to consider the treaty in its entirety. Since it already had approved all but the two issues settled today, its decision is almost a foregone conclusion.
Under the two compromises, Egypt reportedly will sell Israel oil produced in the Israeli-developed Suez Gulf oil fields. Also, Israel will spell out in detail its withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for an exchange of ambassadors one month after Israeli troops are positioned behind a line extending from ELArish in the north to Ras Muhammad in the south.
The oil compromise, which will not be written into the treaty text, also includes U.S. guarantees that Israel will have access to enough oil to meet its needs for 15 years, informed sources said.
Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman and several top aides are scheduled to leave today for Washington as the vanguard of an Israeli negotiation team that will bargain the specifics not only of U.S. oil guarantees, but also of economic and military aid.
Under intense pressure from rightwing members of the Cabinet, Begin promised the ministers he will hold a debate Sunday on the issue of automony for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The debate by itself could pose no serious threat to the Cabinet's approval of the accord, but it could lead to political divisions in parliament.
Dissecting the autonomy plan in a debate within Begin's Likud Party, political observers noted, could lead to a groundswell of opposition and, possibly, the imposition of party discipline to vote in a bloc against the treaty.
As it stands now, approximately. 85 of the Knesset's 120 members probably will vote for the treaty, according to the most informed head counts.
At least 30 of the Likud's 45-member faction is expected to support the accord, along with seven ballots of Deputy Minister Yigael Yadin's Democratic Movement, four members of the Agudat Yisrael Party and some independents, for a total of 50 votes from the government coalition.
Coupled with the expected support of 25 of the opposition labor alignment's of 32 members, along with that of several small factions, that would mean only 35 Knesset members would vote against the treaty or abstain.
This would give Begin the majority needed to endorse the treaty, but it would not be enough to satisy his own personal political needs. Begin has said he wants a majority within his own ruling coalition in favor of the accord, rather than relying on support from the Labor Party. Some of his supporters, anticipating such backing, already are beginning to talk of calling for an election after the treaty signing to broaden Begin's parliament power base.
Yadin said today he saw no obstacle to a signing of the peace treaty. Begin has proposed successive signing ceremonies in Washington, Cairo and Jerusalem as early as the end of next week.
"For Israel, the real problems are going to begin after we sign the peace treaty -- nevertheless, nobody should say because of these problems we should not sign for peace," Yadin said.
Apart from the economic questions yet to be completed with the United States, Yadin said, Israel also faces more negotiating with Egypt over autonomy for Palestinians.
"These are going to be very tough in regard to the nature of autonomy, and I hope they won't mar the nature of our relations with Egypt," the deputy prime minister said.