State Department Official Advises Israel to Be More ‘flexible with Arabs’

Israel was given an obvious hint today that the United States Government wanted her to show “more flexibility” in response to United Nations peace efforts. The suggestion was contained in an address prepared for delivery by Lucius D. Battle, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, before the American Jewish Congress national biennial convention here. Mr. Battle reiterated the U.S. position that it does not accept Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, and called on Israel to permit return of Arabs “to their normal lives in the occupied territories.”

Peace efforts of U.N. envoy Gunnar V. Jarring, Mr. Battle said, were “complicated by strongly held positions on both sides…Israel spokesmen call for direct negotiations and a formal peace treaty with the Arabs…Some Arab leaders insist there must be no negotiations, no recognition, and no peace treaty.” Mr. Battle asserted that “quiet diplomacy, more flexibility, and fewer tendentious public statements might help the parties to bridge their differences.” He added that “too often, both sides seem to lose sight of the over-riding goal of a permanent peace settlement in order to give expression to their temporary frustrations.” He stressed that “time is working for no one” and that the world could not risk periodic Arab-Israel upheavals. “The first and the most immediate threat to peace in the area is the two sided problem of terrorism and acts of reprisal,” he said.

Mr. Battle commended the official Jordanian policy and said that “the best efforts of the Jordanian Government are often frustrated by the unsettled conditions in Jordan and the strong feeling of segments of the population that the occupied territories must be regained by any means. Terrorism breeds reprisal raids which breed more terrorism which breeds more reprisal raids. The cycle can be unending.” The U.S., he said, sought to inject “reason” by urging both sides to end hostile actions. He expressed regret that neither Israel nor Jordan would accept U.N. military observers along the cease-fire lines. On Jerusalem, Mr. Battle said “Moslem religious and historical associations with Jerusalem are no less binding and no less emotional than those of the Jewish people…We have not recognized claims of national sovereignty over Jerusalem. We have not accepted the view that either Israel or Jordan has a superior claim to the city…Since last summer the U.S. has consistently maintained that if there is to be a satisfactory solution for Jerusalem, the problem must be dealt with as one of the elements in a general peace settlement.”

The diplomat quoted U.N. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg and underscored the U.S. position that this country does not recognize “unilateral actions” as prejudging the final and permanent status of Jerusalem. He commended the Nov. 22 Security Council resolution calling for withdrawal of Israeli armed forces as consistent with basic U.S. policy. He recalled that President Johnson last June 19 “urged the parties to be flexible in their approach, to adopt no rigid view on procedures.”

The State Department official asserted that America was “very much alive to Israel’s needs “in connection with Soviet munitions shipments to the Arabs. He denied reports that the U.S. planned a deal with Russia on the Middle East at the expense of Israel linked with Southeast Asia. He similarly denied that the U.S. was disengaging from the Middle East. He covered many other points including the status of Arab refugees, saying that problem had become “more complicated since the June war.” He charged that 300,000 Arabs fled homes in occupied territories and urged Israel to permit their return.

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