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Cabinet Reaffirms Position – No Withdrawal Without Treaty, Direct Negotiations

The coalition Cabinet today reaffirmed Israel’s position that it will not withdraw from occupied Arab territories in the absence of a peace treaty and that peace treaties with the Arabs can be achieved only through direct negotiations. The Cabinet also “noted” a report of Foreign Minister Abba Eban on foreign policy matters, thereby endorsing, in effect, the policies and tactics employed by Mr. Eban to uphold Israel’s position.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the Cabinet formally dissociated itself from the contents of a letter that an Egyptian Government spokesman claimed on May 15 was sent to Secretary General U Thant by the United Nations peace envoy, Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring. Dr. Jarring reportedly notified Thant that Egypt and Israel had “indicated” to him their “acceptance of the Security Council resolution of Nov. 22, 1967″ and their “intent to devise (an) arrangement” under his auspices to implement the resolution. Mr. Eban told the Cabinet today that the letter’s contents, so far as they purport to reflect the views of Israel, were not binding on the Israel Government. He said further that the letter referred to by the Egyptian had been only a draft, rejected by Israel and was never sent to Secretary General Thant.

Mr. Eban’s version of the letter was confirmed this afternoon when the Foreign Ministry was advised by the UN Secretariat that no letter from Dr. Jarring regarding his talks with Israel and the Arab states in New York had been received by Mr. Thant. Foreign Ministry sources said the letter was a draft inspired by the Jordanians but unacceptable to Israel and was therefore not sent. The sources said that while Israel interprets the Security Council’s Nov. 22 resolution as a basis for talks leading to an agreement, the Arabs demand “implementation,” meaning Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories without prior talks.

The Cabinet’s statement was issued after two days of consultations between Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and various ministers. It represented a compromise with the Gahal (Herut-Liberal) faction which has been critical of the Government and, especially, statements by Eban and Israel’s UN Ambassador, Yosef Tekoah, that Israel accepted the Nov. 22 resolution as a basis for peace. Gahal refused to go along with the Cabinet’s endorsement of Mr. Eban. The party caucused today to decide whether or not to remain in the coalition Government. However, a Gahal minister, Joseph Saphir, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last night that Gahal was satisfied with the position enunciated by the Cabinet and was not likely to pull out at this time.

The Gahal position is that Eban should not have authorized Mr. Tekoah’s statement on the Nov. 22 resolution without prior consultation with the Cabinet. They rejected Mr. Eban’s assertion that there was not sufficient time for consultations. Several other ministers agreed with Gahal, but were apparently convinced by Mr. Eban and Mr. Eshkol that the Tekoah statement was no deviation from Israel’s declared policy and, as a tactical matter, did not require prior consultation with the Cabinet.

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