Backlash of Israeli claim to Jerusalem: Arabs ironically warm to Sadat

The Arab world has reacted to Israel's defiant reassertion of claims to all of Jerusalem with a burst of public fury . . . and some private, cautious satisfaction.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's more moderate Arab foes have, in recent weeks, been warming to the idea of rapprochement with the "traitor" of Camp David, in hopes of forging a united Arab peace policy for whoever wins the White House in November.

The new peace plank, as diplomats in Beirut describe it, would shelve the Camp David vision of limited Palestinian self-rule, probably in favor of "mutual recognition" of an Israeli and a Palestinian state. That jibes nicely with a plan adopted by Washington's West European allies at a Venice summit in June.

The Israeli Parliament's July 30 reassertion that the disputed holy city of Jerusalem is the "united . . . capital of Israel" was seen here as a calculated slap at the Arab world. It was also a slap at President Sadat.

"In that sense," the diplomat added, "the latest Israeli move could have a silver lining, in that it could conceivably help bring Sadat back to the Arab fold."

Neither this nor other Arab diplomats think rapprochement is around the corner, even should Egypt go so far as to suspend the Palestinian autonomy talks over the Jerusalem issue.

President Sadat, as seen by onetime Arab allies, remains too proud and too entangled in the Camp David peace process to change course swiftly. He is also deemed unlikely to abandon the current talks until he is 100 percent sure they can lead nowhere, an assessment that may well have to wait until after the US presidential election.

Hard-liners in the Arab world, particularly Syria and the more extremist of the Palestinians, also remain opposed to any reconciliation.

But should Mr. Sadat finally abandon his current negotiating approach, and if both Yasser Arafat and Washington signal willingness to take a fresh look at their policies, the prospects for "Arab unity" might be much greater.

Key Arab moderates have been getting ready for this just in case.

As Israeli parliamentarians were putting the final touches on their Jerusalem bill, Morocco's King Hassan sent a July 26 note to Mr. Sadat uring him to "stand firm" on the issue.

That, said a monarch who joined a nearly unanimous Arab break with Egypt after Mr. Sadat's treaty with Israel, would "make it possible for all of us to re-embrace Egypt, its people, and its President." Saudi Arabia reportedly supported the Moroccan move.

Jordan's King Hussein, meanwhile, was quoted as telling reporters after talks in France July 28, that the issue of Arab recognition for Israel would be "unavoidable" if the Jewish state gave back the Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

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