JERUSALEM (May. 16)
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials welcomed today France’s initiative in bringing the Suez Canal issue before the United Nations Security Council. They indicated that this action may delay the dispatch of an Israeli ship to attempt passage of the Canal.
The French action, Israeli officials said, proved that not everyone accepts the dictates of Egyptian President Nasser as accomplished facts.
Referring to the close Franco-Israeli cooperation on the Suez question, these officials indicated that Israel may decide to withhold the dispatch through the Canal of a ship flying the flag of Israel and possibly also of a ship of another flag operating under Israeli charter.
The Norwegian freighter Mars, now already loaded with a bulk cargo from Haifa for Japanese and Malayan ports, may be affected by this position. While there has not yet been a decision on the highest level, officials indicated that the ship may be routed across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal instead of through the Suez Canal.
Although in American-Israeli talks on the situation Washington reiterated that it has no opposition to an Israeli test of free passage of the Canal, it has been learned here that Israel has been informed of the State Departments opinion that a “progressive testing” could probably be more purposeful than a sudden, full test.
What the State Department seems to have in mind is that Israel should first establish firmly passage of foreign ships under Israeli charter sailing to and from Israel via the Suez Canal. Later, it should enlarge the variety of cargoes carried in these vessels and, only then, send Israel-flagged vessels to the Canal.
It is understood that while Israel told Washington this opinion would be given careful consideration, no commitment has been made to act accordingly. Officials said tonight that “the way” in which the Security Council discussions on Suez go, will certainly influence Israel’s policy.
Officials disclosed here that France had hinted to Israel in advance of its intention to submit the Suez Canal dispute to the Security Council. They said that France had not requested Israel to refrain from sending a ship to test the right of free passage while the issue was before the Council. They denied a report that France had indicated to Israel a test should be made now to dramatize Egypt’s violation of the Constantinople Convention of 1888.