The subdued tone on an occasion which ought at first glance to call for more celebration seemed to be due to a realization on all sides that:
- The hard bargaining in the new relationship between Egypt and Israel comes only after the signing.
- The development of peace in the Middle East as a whole depends on reactions that are not under the control of any of the parties to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty-reactions from the Palestinians, from Jordan, and from Saudi Arabia, to mention the most important.
- The cost of peace is to be greater to the United States, in terms of economic and military assistance, than was the cost of the no-war, no-peace situation that existed for so long between Egypt and Israel.
As details of the documents to be signed are disclosed, it becomes clear the US is assuming moral and written obligations almost as extensive as the treaty commitments Egypt and Israel have taken on themselves.
In the Egyptian view, in particular, much of the burden for seeing to it that the treaty to be implemented is to be borne by the United States. And, as the Egyptians see it, President Carter has committed the US to contributing heavily as well as to an uplifting of the "masses from poverty," no small task when it comes to a country with Egypt's enormous economic and financial problems.
For Israel, there will be a "memorandum of agreement" with the United States, a backup document to the peace treaty, which provides that the US consult and coordinate with Israel on possible military and political actions by the US should Egypt violate the peace treaty.
A State Department official, in a background briefing for reporters given on the understanding that he not be quoted by name, stressed that this memorandum did not amount to a defense treaty between the US and Israel. He also said it was being signed only after extensive consultations with Congress. And he emphasized that the US was not committed to taking any specific actions, but reserved its own judgment on what actions should be taken in the event of Egyptian violations.
The State Department official also went to great lengths to emphasize that new American aid to Egypt and Israel resulting from the peace treaty will not run as high as some speculation has had it. The official said the current estimate of the additional aid required placed it at $4.5 billion to $5 billion over the next three years, in contrast with some published estimates of $15 billion over a similar period.
The aid issue is an important one, partly because of what appears to be strong American public opposition to the idea of paying a high price for the Egyptian-Israeli peace. Some senators and congressmen have indicated that no price would be too high to pay for such an achievement. But they also are reporter to be receiving mail that runs strongly against any such suggestion.
The US, in the meantime, is clearly hoping to get help from its West European and Japanese allies in its efforts to bolster the Egyptian economy. Behind-the-scenes efforts to this end are reported to be under way in Europe and Japan.
One clear commitment the US has made is to supply Israel with its oil needs for as long as 15 years, should Israel's normal oil supplies be cut.
Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan indicated, however, that his country is not entirely happy with the "memorandum of agreement" worked out with the US. On the ABC television program "Issues and Answers" March 25, Mr. Dayan said Israel had hoped to have firmer assurances of US action in the event of Egyptian violations of the peace treaty.
Mr. Dayan also confirmed that a few last minute negotiating battles were still being fought, through the weekend, between US and Israeli negotiators. They had to do with assurances of Egyptian oil supplies to Israel and with the exchange of Egyptian and Israeli ambassadors that would follow Israel's initial withdrawal from Sinai.
As an indication of the difficulties that may lie ahead in dealing with the Palestinian problem, Mr. Begin, appearing on the CBS television program "Face the Nation," differed strongly with President Carter's recent suggestion that the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) might be brought into the negotiations. He referred to the PLO, which is the leading Palestinian umbrella organization, as the "most barbaric armed organization," and said it would be a "black day" when the US came to deal directly with the PLO.