JERUSALEM (Mar. 24)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban confirmed today in Parliament the statements of his Ministry this week to the effect that Israel did not intend at present to establish diplomatic relations with South Viet Nam. Speaking during debate on his Ministry’s budget, Mr. Eban said such statements had been cleared in advance with Premier Levi Eshkol and himself.
The issue developed as a result of a statement last Monday in Washington by Vu Van Thai, the South Viet Nam Ambassador to the United States, who said that negotiations for such relations had been held by officials of Israel and South Viet Nam.
Mr. Eban said he did not think it was wise for the Israel Government to commit itself to categorical statements of rejection of such relations, and that the Government should be left with the option of adopting a different attitude if circumstances changed. He added that any further steps regarding South Viet Nam would be taken at the Cabinet level, with participation of all parties in the government coalition.
The Tel Aviv daily, Maariv, reported today that Israel’s decision to withhold recognition of South Viet Nam followed repeated recent approaches by Soviet Ambassador Dimitri Chuvakhin to the Israel Foreign Ministry against such recognition. Official Government sources declined to comment on the Maariv story.
According to Maariv, the Soviet envoy made his first plea during a call on the Foreign Ministry, and then repeated it at private meetings with Ministry officials. The envoy reportedly asked Israel to take an open anti-United States stand on the issue, and to call the United States intervention “American imperialism. ” At the same time, United States Ambassador Walworth Barbour asked Israel to provide aid to the Saigon regime.
The final decision was that, since Israel was not involved in the South Viet Nam conflict, Israel would not yield to either request, and neither attack the United States nor provide aid to Saigon. Israel also decided not to recognize the Saigon regime under these circumstances.