Canal Users’ Decision on Suez Frees Israel’s Hand, Aide Says

In view of the decision of the Suez Canal Users’ Association to permit ships of member nations to pass through the Suez Canal, paying the tolls to the Egyptian authorities under protest, Israel “probably will feel free to send out ships through the Canal,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said here today,

(In London, British acquiescence was announced to Parliament by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. His statement came under immediate and severe attack from veteran Laborite leader Herbert Morrison who complained of significant omissions in the statement, notably any affirmation of the right of Israeli shipping to use the Canal. The Government statement will be debated later in the week. )

The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said that an Israeli ship would be sent to the Suez Canal “at a suitable time.” He explained that the suitable time would be determined by both political and economic considerations. The spokesman said it was unlikely that the ship would be sent within the coming week but declined to prophesy on the date.

The spokesman said Israel maintains the position that if the Egyptians stopped this ship, their action would be “an act of war” under the definition in international law.

ISRAEL, FRANCE CONFERRING IN PARIS ON SUEZ SITUATION

Israel feels a sense of urgency in this question, the spokesman said, because of the great importance of the Canal to Israel and because there is no other way of testing the intention of President Nasser of Egypt to honor the Constantinople Convention of 1888 assuring freedom of passage of the Canal to all shipping.

The spokesman stressed that Israel still maintains a policy of active cooperation on the Canal question with the maritime nations, especially France. He disclosed that Israel is now conducting talks with the French on the Canal question in Paris. He said that up to now, Israel had no intention of making a move which would have broken the maritime powers’ boycott of the Canal, but, in view of the users association decision, this intention was no longer so firm. The French attitude, the spokesman declared, is still a most potent factor in Israel’s considerations. The fact, however, that Israel is keeping in close touch with France, he noted, does not necessarily mean that Israel will follow the French line exactly.

France was the only member of the users’ association to refuse to agree to use the Suez Canal on Nasser’s terms.

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