In an effort to break the long deadlock over a Palestinian autonomy accord, the United States has offered an "interim" draft version to serve as the basis of Egyptian-Israel negotiations when they resume in mid-October.
That was announced yesterday by President Carter's special Mideast envoy, Sol M. Linowitz, after his return from the Middle East.
While there, Linowitz convinced Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to resume the stalled talks on limited self-government for the Palestinian inhabitants of the Israel-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.The two leaders also agreed to a summit meeting here with Carter sometime after the U.S. presidential election Nov. 4.
At a news conference, Linowitz said the U.S. draft which he called a "memorandum of understanding," has played an important role in reviving the talks and in raising cautiouss hopes that they might finally show progress toward resolving the sensitive Palestinian issue.
He described the draft as containing U.S. proposals for resolving most of the thorny issues that have hamstrung the negotiations and have caused them to break down repeatedly over the last 16 months.
Among the subjects covered, he said, were allocation of responsibility for land, water and security, understandings about Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and some aspects of the proposed Palestinian self-governing authority.
Linowitz refused to divulge the nature of the U.S. proposals. Instead, he stressed that they are intended as "an interim step" and "a basis for further discussion," and cautioned that they could undergo substantial revision before a final agreement is hammered out.
He sketched a timetable under which the United States will confer separately with the Israelis and the Egyptians to ensure that there is three-way agreement on using the U.S. draft, as the basis for further talks. Once that is accomplished, he added, high-level negotiations should resume sometime around the middle of October.
As to the other factors that helped to get the process going again, Linowitz repeated his statements, made while he was in the Middle East, that Sadat and Begin are "men of peace" with a sincere desire to see the negotiations succeed.
He reiterated that on his mission he found both leaders eager to dispel one another's concerns. An especially important consideration, Linowitz said, had been his reporting to Sadat the "impressions" he received from Begin that the Israelis are prepared to make some concillatory gestures toward Egypt.
He declined to say what these moves might be, and stressed that Begin had made no commitments. According to well-informed diplomatic sources, though, they are expected to involve such things as freeing some Palestinian prisoners and possibly postponing Begins announced intention to move his office to East Jerusalem, which is populated predominantly by Arabs.
Sadat angrily halted the autonomy talks this summer after the Israeli parliament passed a law saying that Jerusalem, including the eastern section captured from Jordan in 1967, is the permanent capital of the Jewish state. Since then, Sadat has made clear that he wants some sign of Israeli restraint in the maneuvering over Jerusalem's status.
The city's future technically is not part of the autonomy talks, and Linowitz said that on his mission last week he found both sides having second thoughts about allowing it to impinge on the more immediate questions of the West Bank and Gaza.
"For the moment," he said, "I think both recognize that they ought to focus on the issues central to the negotiations and that the time is not ripe to move Jerusalem to center state. Under those circumstances, the hope is that we can go forward without Jerusalem being a factor of interference."
Asked about the continued refusal of the Palestinians in the occupied territories to join the negotiations or show any signs of corporation with the proposed autonomy scheme, Linowitz sounded a more optimistic note that he has at any point in the past.
"I can't say that with any certainty what the reaction will be. But we have some reason to believe that if we make substantive progress in the negotiations, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are going to be very interested," he said.