WASHINGTON (Mar. 21)
The State Department today declined comment on a report from Cairo revealing that Egypt demands that Israel cede the Negev to the Arabs as a prerequisite to Egyptian cooperation with the Western powers against Communism.
The demand was outlined to American and British correspondents in Cairo yesterday by Maj. Salah Salem, Egyptian Minister of National Guidance. He said it would be futile to talk of organizing an effective Middle East defense system as long as the Negev, which is a part of Israel, separates Egypt from other Arab countries which might be attacked by the Red Army. He emphasized that “the Arabs would never accept” Israel as a member of the Middle East defense system.
Declaring that American and British diplomats have conceded that the cession of the Negev by Israel and placing it under Arab control would expedite the solution of military problems in the Middle East, the Egyptian minister said that he has done nothing so far to bring this about.
(In London the British Foreign Office took a cool view of the Egyptian proposal and reaffirmed the Tripartite Declaration, guaranteeing Israel territory.)
A spokesman for the Israel Embassy here said that the Egyptian demand “has thrown light” on the underlying cause for tension between Egypt and Israel. “An arrogant and utterly lawless claim to the Negev, which is more than half of the Israeli territory, is at the root of Egyptian policy, and especially of the military harassment launched from Gaza,” he said. “It should not be difficult to understand why Gaza headquarters is so active in preventing peaceful Israeli life and development in the Negev.
“The Egyptians will, of course, not get the Negev. But the frank publication of their expansionist design is most significant and disquieting,” the Israel spokesman stated.