Jerusalem (Jan. 22)
The Israel Cabinet met in urgent session tonight to discuss Israel’s stand in the forthcoming General Assembly session which will discuss the extent of Israel’s compliance with a resolution to withdraw its troops from Egyptian territory. The importance with which Israel political circles view this session was underlined by the presence at the meeting of Premier David Ben Gurion, who was known to be ill. The UN resolution ordered Israel to complete the withdrawal of its troops from Egyptian territory by Thursday.
Israeli troops completed their withdrawal today from the Sinai desert, except for a strip along the east coast where military units are guarding Israel’s shipping route through the Gulf of Akaba, pending the securing of guarantees from the United Nations that Israeli ships will no longer be fired upon by Egyptian batteries from the tip of Sinai. Israeli troops also remained in the Gaza Strip which Israel is willing to hand over to the United Nations Emergency Forces, providing they would be stationed there until a definite settlement is reached between Israel and Egypt.
The discussion in the Cabinet tonight was based, presumably, on Ambassador Abba Eban’s report of his series of talks with Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold and a number of delegation chairmen at the UN. Informed circles have disclosed that there is a tendency among many delegations to give the UN Emergency Force wider scope and more extensive functions than originally contemplated.
It was learned in diplomatic circles that this tendency exists chiefly among Western delegations. The West, it was said, has already put out feelers toward the Afro-Asian block on a possible General Assembly resolution extending UNEF’s stay in the area and widening its scope. An exact text of a draft has not yet crystallized, but reportedly visualizes the deployment of UNEF contingents in the Gaza Strip, along the international border between Egypt and Israel and along the entire East coast of the Sinai Peninsula.
Reports received in diplomatic circles here indicate that Mr. Hammarskjold is considering the possibility of the UN Emergency Force remaining in the Middle East for along period. It was learned today that Mr. Hammarksjold has addressed inquiries to several countries which supplied contingents to the UN force to learn whether they would be agreeable to a tour of extended duty for their troops. It is understood that the replies indicate a willingness to keep troops with UNEF for periods over a year. Brazil whose units are en route to the Middle East to join UNEF, is known to have replied that it is willing to provide troops for two years, provided the UN uses this period to work for a permanent settlement of the Arab-Israel problem.