Interior Minister Yosef Burg, the head of the Israeli delegation to the negotiations on proposed autonomy for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, said today Israel wants the long-dormant talks with Egypt and the United States to resume next month.
Officials here also reported today that Israeli warplanes attacked Palestinian positions in Lebanon for the second time in three days.
The Army command said that the Israeli pilots reported "accurate hits" on Palestine Liberation Organization bunkers, an ammunition depot and antiaircraft guns north of Damour on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon. The Army spokesman would not say what type of aircraft were used in the attack, although U.S.-built F4 Phantoms are commonly used in operations in southern Lebanon, often accompanied by supporting F16s.
[Reporters who visited the scene and watched the attack said the targets were the same ones bombed in late May when the Israelis also said they destroyed Libyan provided surface-to-air missiles used to protect Palestinian positions around Damour, Washington Post correspondent David B. Ottaway reported from Beirut.]
[Palestinian and security sources reported five dead and 20 wounded by the raid, but they said no military targets were hit, Ottaway reported. On Friday, the Israelis hit Palestinian artillery and rockets around Nabateyeh, killing at least three persons and wounding 15 to 20 others.]
The autonomy negotiations pressed by Burg were suspended by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat ostensibly to wait until the completion of the Israeli elections although the suspension followed an impasse in the negotiations. The elections here were held June 30.
Burg, following a meeting of Israel's Cabinet, said a "refresher course" in the negotiations should be held initially, and that substantive talks should "start slowly but surely to deal with this matter that during the last months was neglected for very comprehensible reasons."
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is expected to raise the issue when he meets Sadat in Alexandria later this month. No date has been set for the meeting.
Meanwhile, Begin was scheduled to hold meetings during the next two days with U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib, to discuss the Syrian missile crisis, and with U.S. State Department counselor Robert McFarlane to discuss future use by Israel of U.S.-supplied weapons.
McFarlane came here at the request of Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. to discuss the suspension of delivery of four F16 fighters following the use of U.S.-built aircraft during the June 7 Israeli air strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor. The United States is understood to be seeking some kind of formula of assurance that Israel will use U.S.-supplied arms only for self-defense.
Begin's press adviser, Uri Porat, today denied there is any link between the F16 suspension and Israel's opposition to the U.S. sale of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
"We have a contract with the United States and we do not change any details of that contract," Porat said. "Anything we do with U.S. weapons is for legitimate self-defense, including the operation in Iraq, so why change the details?" He was referring to the 1952 agreement in which the U.S. weapons are sold to Israel on the condition that they not be used in offensive operations.
The Cabinet today was also briefed by Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ephraim Evron, who was recalled for routine consultations on U.S.-Israeli relations, Cabinet officials said. The Cabinet met in the guise of the ministerial defense committee, meaning its deliberations are considered classified material and censorable.