JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
Ambassador George Ball and his party crossed the Allenby Bridge into Jordan today, and political observers here were trying to assess the two days of intensive talks between the American diplomats and the leaders of Israel — Prime Minister Eshkol, Foreign Minister Eban, Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon and Defense Minister Gen. Moshe Dayan.
Although few specifics could be gleaned from official communiques or from Mr. Ball’s remarks at a press conference, there was evidence that the talks were “frank and open-hearted,” the expression used by President Johnson in a letter to Mr. Eshkol that Mr. Ball delivered. The Ambassador stressed at his press conferences here and in other public statements that he and his party came to exchange views, to learn first-hand how Israel’s leaders regard the Middle East situation, and to impart the U.S firmly believed that a Middle East solution must come from the Governments and peoples of the region and had no intention of forcing any plan or solution on them. His party included Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco and Alfred Atherton, chief of the State Department’s Arab-Israel desk.
On the Israeli side there was evident satisfaction that Government leaders succeeded in making their views clear, particularly their concern over the rapid rebuilding of the Arab war machine by Russia. The question of Israel’s six-month-old request for 50 F-4 Phantoms, the American supersonic jet fighter-bomber, to match the modern Soviet-built planes being supplied to the Egyptians and Syrian Air Forces Is known to have been discussed. Whether the jets will be forthcoming is still a most question, but at least Washington has been freshly informed of Israel’s concern for its security, it was noted here.
It was also reported that the U.S. acknowledges that Egypt represents the main stumbling block In the way of Middle East settlement. Mr. Ball and his party reportedly agreed with Mr. Eshkol and Mr. Eban that Egyptian President Nasser’s continued adherence to the Khartoum formula of no negotiations and no peace with Israel was a rigid stand. They hinted that Jordan might be less intransigent and also sought to persuade the Israelis to relax their demand for direct peace talks with the Arabs. The Americans were warned not to misinterpret the so-called Egyptian “peace offensive” of recent days which Mr. Eban called “misleading.”
The question of Jerusalem was also known to have come up. It was stated that the U.S. Government does not see eye to eye with Israel on the administrative annexation of East Jerusalem. But some observers thought that the attitude of Mr. Ball and his associated might have been changed following a tour of the city with Mayor Teddy Kollek as guide.
Mr. Ball was apparently satisfied with the results of his visit. He told newsmen, “I want to make It quite clear that I did not come here with any plans for a settlement nor have we, in the course of any conversations on the American side, tried to concert a common policy with the Israeli Government. What we wanted to have was a complete exchange of views and this is what we had.”
The talks were the subject of a statement issued by the Israel Foreign Ministry. It said that the “U.S. representatives summed up their position in accordance with the principles and policies outlined by President Johnson on June 19 last year.” Mr. Eban, the statement said, “summed up the principles and aspirations which guide the Government of Israel in its struggle for a permanent peace, security and stability in the Middle East. Views were exchanged in the spirit of mutual understanding which characterizes the contacts between the two Governments.” The statement added that “the deliberations expressed the desire of both Governments to establish a permanent peace in the Middle East and stressed that the main responsibility for the advancement of peace rests with the Governments of the region.”