Presidents Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Yitzhak Navon of Israel announced today that they have agreed on new measures to accelerate the normalization of relations between the two countries and discuss "new ideas" to revive the stalled Palestinian autonomy talks.
During a news conference, however, Sadat seemed to show little interest any longer in pressing for an early summit among himself, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Carter after the U.S. elections, an idea Sadat himself first promoted.
Western observers here said Sadat's apparent declining interest in a summit stemmed from his doubts about the outcome of the American presidential election and the realization as well that little probably can be accomplished now until after the next Israeli elections.
Sadat said the date for the summit would be discussed at the next meeting of the three countries' negotiators scheduled for mid-November, but he gave no indication when he thought in might be held.
He also refused to elaborate on what "new ideas" he and Navon had discussed to find a breakthrough in the deadlocked Palestinian autonomy talks. dHe said he doubted, however, that any major new development would come before the holding of a three-way summit meeting.
While there was no indication of any breakthrough in the deadlocked Camp David peace process, Sadat seemed anxious to reaffirm his strong commitment to proceeding with the establishment of normal relations with Israel.
Speaking to reporters at his Nile delta home town following a second round of talks here with Navon, the Egyptian leader said, "We want to do the maximum to consolidate relations between Egypt and Israel.
"As I have always told you before, this is the cornerstone of the comprehensive settlement that will come sooner or later," he said. "There is no going back. So let us not link this [the autonomy talks] to that [normalization of relations]."
Western observers here were struck by Sadat's determination to go ahead full steam with the process of establishing closer ties between the two countries despite his decision to break off the autonomy talks in retaliation for Israel's formal annexation of Jersualem as its eternal and undivided capital last July.
The Egyptian president made no mention of this during the press conference, referring only to the "difficulties" surrounding the Camp David talks.
Sadat seemed content to work for the time being on improving relations with Israel and building up a pro-Egyptian lobby there, even if this steady rapprochement incurs the wrath of the Arab world and risks even greater Egyptian isolation.
Saddat's approach was expected to meet with the full approval of the Israelis. Especially attractive to Israelis is Sadat's refusal to link the fate of bilateral ties between the two nations to that of the autonomy talks, since the Israelis are known to be most interested in consolidating the peace with Egypt.
One aspect of the developing relationship between the two countries bothering the Israeli government is the small number of Egyptians willing, or able, to visit Israel. While more than 10,000 Israelis have visited Egypt since the establishment of diplomatic ties, only about, 1,000 Egyptians have gone to Israel.
One reason given by Egyptians is their fear of being ostracized politically or socially by other Arab friends and relatives by traveling to Israel and thereby sanctioning the whole process of normalization so strongly opposed elsewhere in the Arab world.
One of the main Israeli objectives in the meeting between Sadat and Navon was to pave the way for more people-to-people contact, notably by enticing more Egyptians into visiting Israel.
The decisions reached today on accelerating the normalization of relations include the opening of the Sinai border to allow land transport of merchandise between the two countries, an additional weekly flight to Cairo by the Israeli airline, El Al, and exchanges of visits between Egyptian and Israeli government and party officials, youth delegations, businessmen and editors.