The Arab world, reflected in its government-controlled newspapers and radios, split into opposing camps today in first reaction to Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai.
The comments provided a foretaste of a widely predicted debate in coming months on the question of whether Egypt should be welcomed back into the Arab world now that it has recovered all its territory from Israel.
The comments were divided roughly between those of the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front--Syria, South Yemen, Algeria, Libya and the Palestine Liberation Organization--and the rest of the Arab world more closely aligned with Saudi Arabia and conservative states along the Persian Gulf.
A cartoon in Beirut's leftist newspaper Al Safir showed Prime Minister Menachem Begin driving in a tank and shouting down to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt: "Just forget what you've seen us do here, you are going to have plenty to see in Lebanon, Palestine and the Golan."
The humor betrayed widespread concern here that the Israeli leadership plans to move toward intensified attacks on Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon, increased repression in the West Bank and Gaza and more settlements in the occupied territories.
The press in Syria, the front's major power, reflected the controversy about whether to reconcile with Egypt. Al Baath, newspaper of the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party, wrote: "Although there are some Arab countries that already are preparing to welcome Egypt back after today's withdrawal, the Egypt of Mubarak is weighed down with the shackles of Camp David and bound by the United States' occupation forces. But the Arabs who succeeded in frustrating the principal targets of Camp David . . . remain ready to oppose the attempt to generalize Camp David in the upcoming era."
But signs of willingness to accept Egypt anew have emerged with particular clarity from Saudi Arabia in recent days. "The return of Egypt to the Arabs should not be the subject of any haggling," said the officially guided Saudi newspaper Al Riyadh. "Egypt constitutes the heart of the Arab world and therefore should be recognized as an indispensable necessity under all circumstances."