JERUSALEM (May. 22)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, speaking not only as Premier but also as Israel’s Minister of Defense, proposed today that Israel and Egypt carry out “reciprocal reductions” of their troop concentrations on each other’s borders.
Mr. Eshkol addressed the Knesset (Parliament) at its opening summer session here today. He told the hushed house that he was speaking “with complete confidence in Israel’s defensive capacity and her steadfastness” and expressed “readiness at this hour to participate in efforts to reinforce stability and advance peace in our region.” Reciprocal reduction of the troop concentrations, said Mr. Eshkol, would constitute “an endeavor to ensure continuation of the quiet that has prevailed on the Israeli-Egyptian frontier for the last 10 years, and would be a concerted international effort to outlaw terrorism and sabotage against any member state of the United Nations.”
“If Egypt recalls her reenforcements on Israel’s frontier,” he pledged, “Israel will do likewise. The purpose of UNEF, according to the General Assembly resolution of 1957, was to contribute to peace in the area. Its existence in some areas, and the duties it performed, were doubtless a positive factor.”
CRITICIZES U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HASTY ACCESSION TO EGYPT’S REQUEST
Mr. Eshkol told Parliament that he found “perplexing” the “precipitate” action by United Nations Secretary-General U Thant “to conform at once to Egypt’s request for withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force.” “Israel,” said Mr. Eshkol, “was a party to the international agreements in 1957 for the establishment of the Force between Egypt and Israel. But the Secretary-General found it unnecessary to consult Israel before arriving at his hasty decision.”
“UNEF has been in its positions in our area for 10 years,” he pointed out. “The demand from its withdrawal and the response to that demand signify a weakening of the United Nations’ role and a guardian of the peace. The late Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, wrote Israel in February of 1957 that the Secretary-General would consult with his consultative committee on UNEF if any demand were made for the withdrawal of the Force, and that the committee would decide whether the request should be brought to the attention of the General Assembly. (The consultative committee is composed of the states that contributed troops to UNEF. These were Brazil, Canada, India, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.)
“Israel was led to believe that any such request would only be acceded to after serious deliberation, during which all sides to the problem would be heard. But, according to Israel’s information, Mr. Thant did not bring this matter to the attention of the committee and, thus, to a General Assembly debate,” Mr. Eshkol stressed. The Premier urged that the major powers “should now use their influence toward reducing the danger of an explosion in the Middle East.” He said that the Soviet Union now has “a special responsibility for using its influence in Cairo and Damascus, but, so far, the USSR has not publicly dissociated itself from Syria’s policy toward Israel.”
All of the major parties on the Knesset were united, during the debate, in their appreciation of the dangers now facing Israel and the need for action in case Israel’s vital interests were harmed by Egypt or Syria. Only the Communists warned against Israel’s possible involvement in an “imperialist plot.” Agudath Israel, an Orthodox group, urged caution and prudence in the present situation. Shimon Peres, Mr. Ben-Gurion’s co-leader of Rafi, was expected to criticize the Government’s handling of the current crisis.