WASHINGTON (Feb. 12)
President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles today again discussed by phone the question of Israel troop withdrawals from the Gaza and Akaba areas in the light of the offer made yesterday by Secretary Dulles to the Israel Government.
The offer, conveyed through Israel Ambassador Abba Eban, proposed that Israel should withdraw its armed forces from the Gaza and Akaba areas while the United States would undertake to support the principle of free passage for Israeli ships through the Gulf of Akaba if the principle were violated. The proposal included readiness of the United States to place a ship in the Strait of Tiran to back up its guarantee of free Akaba passage.
The offer provoked considerable skepticism today among Congressional friends of Israel. The part concerning U.S. assurances on passage through the Gulf of Akaba was considered vague and little different from previous U.S. expressions on maritime rights ignored by Egypt.
As to the Gaza Strip, it was thought that under the U.S. offer the situation might bring a return of Egyptian control over the area while the old United Nations trace supervisory force was merely increased in numerical strength. It was feared that the UN force might again fail to prevent fedayeen raids into Israel, and in effect, shielding the area from any effective Israel retaliatory measures.
U.S. sources admitted that the only action the United States would be likely to take if the Egyptian blockade were restored would be to look to the United Nations for a solution. The United Nations, however, has already shown an inability to protect Israel’s basic rights in this issue.
Meanwhile, the State Department was pressing for rapid Israel acceptance of its offer and the quick withdrawal of Israel forces. It hinted that unless Israel accepts its proposals, the United States would have no recourse but to support sanctions. It is understood that Israel intends to seek more concrete details while continuing to explain its requirement for tangible and effective guarantees.