The shaky start of normal relations between the governments of Egypt and Israel was thrown into further confusion today when Israeli officials said they were unable to explain why Egypt had abruptly delayed the exchange of diplomatic representatives.
A delegation of Israeli diplomats, led by Charge d'Affaires Yosef Haddas, was to have left today to set up a temporary embassy in the Cairo Hilton Hotel. It would have marked the first Israeli diplomatic representation in an Arab country since the creation of the Jewish state nearly 32 years ago.
Instead, the Israeli Foreign Ministry received a message late last night from Cairo instructing Haddas and his delegation to delay their departure. Foreign Ministry officials said no explanation was given, and that they do not know when the diplomats will be allowed into Egypt.
The confusion was compounded by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's reported decision to speed up the other aspects of the normalization process, advancing to Feb. 15 the exchange of ambassadors and the negotiation of trade, cultural and civil aviation agreements that previously had been scheduled to take effect July 26.
[Reuter, however, quoted Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials as saying the request that Israel put off arrival of its advance team of diplomats was in line with Sadat's decision to consider Feb. 15 the date for starting full normalization of relations. They said ambassadors would be exchanged Feb. 26, as stipulated in the peace treaty signed by the two countries last March.]
It is possible that Sadat wishes to open both embassies, in Cairo and Tel Aviv, simultaneously on Feb. 15. A team of technicians from Cairo is due here Feb. 4 to look for a site for the Egyptian embassy. Egypt has not yet said when it intends to open an embassy in Tel Aviv.
A nine-member Israeli team of communications and administrative personnel flew to Cairo today to prepare the new Israeli embassy, which will be housed in an apartment in the capital's Gezira suburb.