Egypt today accused Israel of deliberately creating the impression that the process of normalization between the two countries was not going well in order to extract more concessions from Lebanon in the negotiations over the withdrawal of Israeli forces.
Replying to Israeli accusations that Egypt was jeopardizing the process by its negative attitude, Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali said both the United States and Israel knew the Egyptian government was implementing the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty "in a very honest way."
"But it is in the interest of Israel for the time being to show that it is not going so well. Why? To show that the normalization with Lebanon is a must and even to claim more agreements than was had with Egypt in this respect. This is the main issue."
Ali's comments came in an interview with The Washington Post on the eve of President Hosni Mubarak's state visit to Washington for talks with President Reagan about the state of U.S. efforts to get negotiations aimed at settlement of the Palestinian problem under way between Israel and Jordan.
The Egyptian leader is expected to urge President Reagan to accelerate those efforts as well as to press harder for a speedy Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon before the next U.S. presidential election campaign totally immobilizes his administration from taking any decisive action.
Mubarak has already made clear in a series of recent interviews that he is deeply worried that the time for initiating new Middle East peace talks is passing quickly and that the Arab states, the Palestinians and the United States must act within the next six to 12 months to prevent Israel from absorbing and effectively annexing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"We have only until the end of this year to act on the American initiative," Mubarak told the Manchester Guardian in an interview last week. By next autumn the presidential campaign will have begun in America and it becomes difficult for any administration to take major foreign policy decisions."
Mubarak is also expected to ask the Reagan administration for an additional $400 million in military assistance in the next fiscal year, bringing the total to $1.7 billion. He wants roughly half of it to be given in grants. Currently only $400 million of the $1.3 billion military aid package to Egypt is on a grant basis.
In the interview. Foreign Minister Ali expressed Egypt's concern about the stalled negotiations between Israel and Lebanon for a withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country were proceeding, blaming Israel for the lack of progress.
He said Israeli demands to have radar stations, "security elements" and other special security arrangements in southern Lebanon constituted "in reality a nonwithdrawal of the Israeli forces" and "can never be accepted."
"This also gives the impression that there are no limits whatsoever for Israeli security," he said, calling this "a contradiction to peace."
He expressed anxiety as well about the new wave of Israeli settlement activity on the West Bank, saying something had to be done by the Reagan administration to stop it. This will be one of the "main messages" Mubarak plans to deliver to Reagan during his two-day stay in Washington, Ali said.
Regarding any new Middle East peace talks, the foreign minister said Egypt did not exclude the possibility of starting them even before the negotiations over Lebanon were completed. But he said Egypt preferred to start them after agreement was reached at least on a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
"In all cases, a coordination between Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization is needed to form the delegation in the forthcoming negotiations," he said. "This has to be solved."
He made it clear that Egypt expected Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip--but not PLO representatives--to join the Jordanian delegation.
Ali disclosed that Mubarak was carrying a special message he had received from PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat a few days ago to deliver to the Reagan administration. But he declined to say what the message contained.
Ali also made the following points:
* Egypt expects a breakthrough in its relations with the Arab world "anytime" but does not expect a total Arab consensus to emerge on the issue of restoring diplomatic ties broken off by most members of the Arab League in retaliation for Egypt's signing a peace treaty with Israel.
* Conditions are "ripening" for an exchange of ambassadors between Egypt and the Soviet Union but "some time" is still needed before the attitude of the new Soviet leadership toward Egypt becomes clear. Former president Anwar Sadat expelled the Soviet ambassador in September 1981, alleging the Soviet Embassy was interfering in Egypt's internal affairs.
In his interview with the Guardian, Mubarak noted that when he came to power he ordered a halt to propaganda attacks on all Arab nations but he now makes an exception of Syria. "I know President [Hafez] Assad of Syria well," he said. "He was one of my friends but his policies seem designed to prevent a regional peace settlement." Mubarak said Syrian policies were aimed at keeping Syrian troops in Lebanon and that neither Syria nor Israel "wants the Reagan plan to work. Both want to stay on in Lebanon for their own purposes. There is an understanding there."
[He also explained why he favored having the PLO unilaterally recognize Israel. "Some Palestinians don't like the idea but I put it this way. If you have a good card in your hand and you hold it too long it becomes useless. So I say play your recognition card now because it can only help the peace process; wait and you will lose everything."]