An agreement by Israel's coalition government to resolve the six-year-old dispute with Egypt over the Taba beachfront in the Sinai Peninsula still has not been approved by the Egyptian government, Israeli officials said today.
The officials said that implementation of the Israeli Cabinet agreement, which forestalled a breakup of the fragile coalition government here, could take a year or more to achieve.
The national unity government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres endorsed a package compromise early today that will take the Taba dispute to binding international arbitration while making another try at conciliation.
Israeli officials conceded, however, that many elements of the package agreement have not even been brought to the attention of the Egyptian government, and that new disputes with Egypt may lie ahead.
Throughout a Cabinet meeting that lasted from 6:30 last night until nearly 7 this morning, Peres was in frequent telephone contact with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his charge d'affaires in Tel Aviv, Mohammed Bassouni, said sources close to Peres.
But a government source close to the negotiations said that "lots of elements of the agreement weren't brought to the attention of the Egyptians. I can't give you a clear-cut answer that the Egyptians will accept everything."
[In Cairo, senior Egyptian officials described the Israeli decision to accept arbitration as a positive step but said they would have to study the Israeli proposal in detail before making a formal response, reported special correspondent Jeffrey Bartholet. "It is certainly a good step," said Mamdouh Beltagi, head of the Egyptian State Information Office. "But I'd like to see it without any connection to conciliation."]
The dispute over the 250-acre slice of beachfront south of Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba could last for a year or more under the terms approved by Israel's 10-member "inner cabinet."
Israeli officials said eight months may be needed to prepare written briefs after negotiations to draft a document that spells out the terms of reference of the arbitration process.
By then, political analysts here noted, Peres will have rotated out of the premiership under the 1984 coalition agreement, and the government will be under the leadership of the current foreign minister, Yitzhak Shamir, whose right-wing Likud bloc has opposed making territorial concessions to Egypt over Taba.
Resolution of the Taba dispute had been set by Mubarak as a condition for resuming normal relations with Israel. Egypt withdrew its ambassador following the 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. Under today's accord, Egypt is to reassign an ambassador to Israel when the document on arbitration is signed.
The 14-point agreement approved by the Israelis stipulates that resolution of the border dispute at Taba and 14 other disputed points along the Sinai border will be submitted to international arbitrators.
During the first eight months of the negotiations, while both sides are preparing written documentation of their cases, the arbitrators will attempt to resolve the dispute through conciliation.
Both sides will agree on a timetable for implementation of agreements signed by Israel and Egypt in 1979 for normalization of relations. These include agreements on transportation, tourism, civil aviation, cultural exchanges and the establishment of a "political dialogue" between Egypt and Israel. If this timetable is not followed, the process of arbitration is to halt.
The sides are to agree on the identity and number of arbitrators, and on the length of the arbitration process. Israel has said that it expects each side to provide members of the arbitration panel, supplemented by arbitrators from neutral countries.
The losing side in the arbitration is to have free access to Taba and the two tourist hotels there. Moreover, Egypt is to provide a full report on the killing of seven Israeli tourists in October in the Sinai Peninsula and to compensate the families of the victims.
The accord also specifies that Egypt and Israel will agree to prevent "hostile propaganda" and will agree to enable "free and equal access" to the mass media of each. The accord is to be ratified by the governments of both countries.