Israel has proposed opening the frontier with Egypt almost immediately after signing the peace treaty with Cairo to allow Egyptian negotiators access to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank before talks on autonomy in these occupied territories, it was disclosed today.
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, in a closed briefing of his senior advisers, said there has been no Egyptian reply to the proposal, made through the United States. The content of the briefing was relayed to correspondents by a ministry spokesman.
Throughout the peace talks, Egypt has resisted Israeli attempts to speed up normalization of relations between the two countries, without tradeoff guarantees of a solution to the Palestinian question, and Israeli officials are cautious in their estimate of whether the latest suggestion will be accepted.
Dayan said Israel is willing to open the border in the first month after the signing rather than waiting nine months until the first phase of Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula is completed, as provided in the treaty. If Egypt accepts the proposal, it would mean that for the first time in its 30-year existence, Israel would have an open frontier with its largest Arab neighbor.
Dayan also disclosed that with autonomy negotiations for the West Bank and Gaza nearing, there have been no discussions of mechanics of the talks. Numerous questions -- some filled with political implications -- not only remained unresolved, Dayan said, but they have not even been raised in talks among Israel, Egypt and the United States.
They include issues as seemingly fundamental as the status of the United Nations during the phased nine-month Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, what role the United States will play in bringing representatives of Jordan and residents of the West Bank and Gaza to the negotiating table, where the talks will be held, whether there will be separate Gaza delegates, and the question of how Israel will be compensated for Gulf of Suez oil pumped by Egypt between the beginning and end of the Sinai pullback.
With these and other major issues yet to be placed on an agenda, the Egyptian-Israeli peace process nevertheless continued at a dizzying pace, with many of the various political factions of the parliament meeting to adopt positions -- most of them favorable -- on the treaty in anticipation of a vote by the Knesset this week.
The Cabinet meets Monday to give formal approval to all the treaty provisions, which it already endorsed piecemeal during and immediately after President Carter's six-day trip to Cairo and Jerusalem.
Although a lengthy Cabinet debate is expected on the autonomy plan for the West Bank and Gaza, an attempt by the three National Religious Party ministers to force the government to define publicly the limits of autonomy apparently has failed because of lack of support by other ministers in Prime Minister Menachem Begin's Likud coalition.
The Knesset, or parliament, is expected to begin debating the peace treaty Tuesday and finish late Wednesday, although the vote could be put off until Thursday because of dissatisfaction with a 20-hour time limit imposed by the prime minister.
If the treaty is approved, as expected, Begin and possibly as many as eight members of his Cabinet will fly to Washington in an Israeli Air Force plane sometime next week for signing ceremony in the White House. The date has not been determined, partly because Begin is reluctant to give the appearance of presenting the 120 Knesset members with a fait accompli.
In his briefing of Foreign Ministry advisers, Dayan said the idea of advancing normalization of the Egyptian-Israeli border evolved from the technical question of how Egyptian negotiators would gain access to Israel to talk with Palestinians before the talks begin.
Dayan emphasized that at the moment neither side knows how the Palestinians will be represented at the autonomy talks, but that it is clear the United States will be a major factor in that effort.
Asked whether there is any shared view on how to entice Palestinian Political leaders -- virtually all of whom have condemned the treaty and vowed not to participate -- to the negotiating table, a Dayan aide replied: "No. Everyone has been waiting for peace treaty number one to be signed before starting on headache number two."