Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin today announced agreement on several bilateral issues, including supervision of the demilitarized Sinai Peninsula, but they made no progress in talks on the crucial issue of autonomy for Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
After their second private meeting of Sadat's three-day visit to this Mediterranean port city, Begin and Sadat said they needed more time to grapple with the principles of self-government for Palestinians and that they intended to leave the "details" of the bargaining process to their Cabinet ministers, who will resume deliberations later this month in Alexandria, Egypt.
But Sadat, without citing the basis for his optimism, predicted that other Arab states -- most notably Jordan -- would join the peace process by the end of next May, which will mark the first anniversary of the beginning of West Bank-Gaza autonomy negotiations.
Sadat's optimism stood in contrast to a declaration by Jordan's King Hussein at the nonaligned nations' summit in Havana today where he spoke of the Arabs' "deep pain" over Egypt's decision to sign "a separate and disfigured peace" with Israel. He also condemned the Camp David agreements and said that "the whole Arab nation stands with the Palestinian people."
When pressed on why he thought the autonomy issue, including the volatile question of the status of east Jerusalem, could be resolved then with so little progress evident now, Sadat replied: "Yes, I am optimistic and I think if we don't reach by the end of this [negotiating] year the final touch," he said he believed nevertheless that a "very big step" would be made.
Sadat and Begin, however, made a minor breakthrough on a temporary solution to the problem of peacekeeping supervision of the Sinai, agreeing to a joint monitoring force until the defense ministers of the two countries work out a permanent solution with President Carter.
Under the threat of a Soviet veto for an extension of the mandate for the United Nations Emergency Force stationed in the Sinai, the United States compromised in July by bolstering the unarmed U.N. truce supervising group there. Israel protested, however, that the Camp David peace accord explicitly guarantees the creation of a U.S.-sponsored multinational peacekeeping force.
"We decided, Prime Ministered Begin and me, to take the whole matter in our hands, both of us," Sadat said, indicating, in effect, that the United States at least temporarily was being relieved of its pledge on a multinational force.
Then, in a sharp rebuke to Egypt's former patrons, Sadat said, "The Soviet Union will never stop or end this peace process. On the contrary, it [the agreement] will give it more impetus."
In another swipe at the Soviets, the Egyptian leader said, "Well, if the Soviet Union wants to maneuver, well, let us take the whole thing in our own hands, and we took it, really."
Sadat, who arrived here yesterday for his eighth summit with Begin since they signed the peace treaty last year, later went on a driving tour of Haifa, stopping on a main street to shake hands with well wishers. Buoyed by the crowds, he strolled down the street for several minutes greeting surprised Israelis. He and his wife, Jihan, also toured an electronics factory before attending a state dinner tonight.
Tonight, a delegation from the "Peace Now" movement, which rallied considerable public support for the Camp David accord and Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, met briefly with Sadat at his hotel and received an invitation to visit Egypt.
One of the "Peace Now" members, Yael Tamir, said Sadat explained his appreciation in general terms and said he was certain the majority of Israelis support the peace initiative.
At their joint press conference, Begin announced that the two leaders reached agreement on the sale of Egyptian oil to Israel once Israel withdraws from the Alma oil fields, which have been supplying nearly a quarter of the country's needs.
While the price is still in dispute -- $7 a barrel reportedly separates the two -- Egyptian and Israeli sources said that Sadat had agreed to sell Israel all of the 14 million barrels produced in the Alma field annually. Egypt previously had offered to sell 1.5 million barrels.
Begin also announced that Israel will move up by three months its turnover to Egypt of the St. Catherines Monastery in the Sinai, the legendary site of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The site is to be returned to Egypt by Nov. 19 so that Sadat can make a pilgrimage there to mark the second anniversary of his historic journey to Jerusalem.
Begin stressed that after the turnover, Israelis would be allowed access to St. Catherine's.
As expected, the leaders announced that Begin would make another trip to Egypt for their ninth summit, although a date or place was not announced. Egyptian sources said they expect the summit will be held in Aswan.
Calmly puffing his pipe in an outdoor news conference on Mount Carmel overlooking Haifa harbor, Sadat repeatedly stressed the need to transform the Egyptian-Israeli treaty into a comprehensive peace involving the entire region.
But when it was suggested he was concerned first with the return of the occupied territory, the Egyptian president bristled, insisting he had not signed a separate treaty but was "building peace, building new understanding."
When he insisted that Jerusalem is part of the West Bank and "we are discussing full autonomy for the Western Bank and Gaza," Begin responded firmly that Jerusalem, including the eastern sector annexed after the 1967 Six-Day War, is "indivisible" and that "this is the attitude of Israel and I think supported by every citizen of Israel."
Begin also dismissed the notion that a comprehensive peace cannot be achieved without the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he called "both in aim and in methods a genocidal organization."
Citing the PLO covenant to eliminate the Jewish state by armed struggle, Begin said, "When we see emissaries of death coming to a place, Nahariya, and killing a father and a small girl or to Maalot and massacring 18 school children, and then we can say that the method is a result of the aim, and therefore the PLO is not a part of any negotiations."