WASHINGTON (May. 24)
The broad outlines of a so-called “compromise plan” to quiet Arab-Israel tensions emerged here today involving a scheme to concede Egypt some authority over the Straits of Tiran in exchange for passage, under United Nations Supervision, of ships proved to be on “innocent passage.” The plan was said by officials to be still in a talking stage in Washington, Moscow, London, Tel Aviv, Cairo, and the United Nations.
It was said to include a return of limited U.N. presence by placing “U.N. pilots” aboard ships transiting the Straits. But some concessions would be made to Egypt on transit by Israeli flag ships and contraband lists drawn up for other ships to be certified by the U.N. without Egyptian naval inspection.
The reported “compromise” formula was said to have been, discussed at President Johnson’s meeting of the National Security Council today. The president was said to be influenced by a rising tide of opinion among key members of Congress that the United States must not intervene unilaterally in the Middle East. Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield joined with Republican Leader Everett Dirksen in commending President Johnson’s statement of yesterday. But both said that the United States should act only through the United Nations. Sen. Mansfield made known that prevailing Senate views had been communicated to Secretary of State Rusk.
Under the purported formula, both Israeli and Egyptian troops would be required to simultaneously move back from the borders where they are massed. The Straits of Tiran issue might be referred to some international court, it was said, while a temporary compromise would allow Israel limited access and permit Egypt to exercise nominal authority over the Straits. Economic inducements might be offered to both sides to solve their present difficulties.
Meanwhile, it was announced here today that the U.S. Government does not expect any commercial ships flying the American flag to transit the Tiran Straits in the immediate future. This statement was made by State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey. He said also that the United States had given no advice to any nation, including Israel, not to send its ships through the Straits. He stressed that “very limited” American shipping had used the Eilat port.
A spokesman for the U.S. Navy said today that the U.S. Sixth Fleet is not expected to become involved in the Akaba situation because ships would have to apply to Egypt for permission to transit the Suez Canal. (From London it was reported that Royal Navy ships have been alerted. HMS Victorious, an aircraft carrier en route home from service east of Suez, has been ordered to remain in the Middle East. A dispatch from Halifax,N.S., said three Canadian warships were on standby orders for the Middle East should it become necessary to withdraw the 800 Canadian soldiers of the U.N. Emergency Force.)