Israel Ready to Negotiate Peace Now, Foreign Minister Says in New York

Israel is ready to send representatives “anytime, anywhere, right now, to start negotiating peace with Egypt and the other Arab states, without any prior conditions whatsoever,” Mrs. Golda Meir, Foreign Minister of Israel, declared today.

Arriving at the New York International Airport this morning to head Israel’s delegation to this year’s U. N. General Assembly, Mrs. Meir stated that it is up to the United Nations to use “all its moral pressure toward a peace in the Middle East.”

The Israel Foreign Minister declared she has brought with her “nothing sensational” as far as a peace plan is concerned. “It is the same insistence on peace that we have been reiterating since 1948 and 1949,” she said. “There is only one central strategic question, and that is peace.

“The Arab states,” she continued, “will not want to talk about peace if they think they can destroy Israel, if they think the world will allow them to destroy Israel. But if they know that the State of Israel is here to stay–and it is here to stay–then peace talks might be started. And we are ready. It is that simple, as far as we are concerned.”

As far as the problems on the current United Nations agenda are concerned, Mrs. Meir indicated that there are many questions that Israel must have answered. She appeared to be cool about the United Nations police force, declaring “we don’t know exactly what the international force is there for: perhaps we shall find out.”

Mrs. Meir was hesitant about answering detailed questions as to Israel’s promise to withdraw from “Egyptian territory.” She indicated that specific withdrawal plans of Israel troops from the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza and the islands guarding the Strait of Akaba are still to be discussed. One of the questions in connection with the police force, Mrs. Meir said, is whether it will protect free passage of “all” ships through the Suez Canal. She emphasized the word “all” heavily.

Other questions she will seek to have answered here are among queries she had sent a week ago to Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. These questions have not as yet been answered, Mrs. Meir stated. They include such matters as whether Egypt still insists she is in a state of war with Israel; whether she is willing to enter into immediate peace talks; whether she agrees to drop the economic blockade against Israel and stop blockading the Suez Canal; and whether she intends to recall the fedayeen murder gangs that have been inflicting casualties and destruction on Israel.

Questioned about reports that Russia’s “volunteers” are pouring into the Arab states, Mrs. Meir replied “that is not a happy question. “She seemed deeply concerned about the reports. The large stores of supplies captured by the Israel army when it destroyed the Egyptian bases in the Sinai area indicated, she declared, that there “was much more there, supplies of all kinds, including clothing and not only arms, than the Egyptians themselves could possibly have used.” The implication was that these arms and supplies might have been stored at the Sinai bases for troops from some country other than Egypt.

As to Israel’s spirit, she said: “That is a very happy matter about which I could say a great deal. The spirit never was higher, never firmer, never more determined.” The country’s determination to “exist” extends to the economic area also, the Foreign Minister said. Asked whether the country’s existence was threatened, or may be threatened, by economic sanctions from the Western Powers, she replied: “If economic pressures are applied we would have to bear them. We have adjusted before; if we have to adjust again, we will. Israel exists and is going to continue to exist.”

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