JERUSALEM (Sep. 19)
Israel does not believe that Egypt is seeking an all-out military confrontation at this time, but neither is she seeking peace, authoritative diplomatic sources said here today. According to these sources, Egypt’s military escalation along the Suez Canal does not foreshadow a general flare-up but may be Egypt’s way of focusing attention on the area to create pressure for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the east bank of the canal. They said that Egypt may be seeking a partial settlement that would lead to the canal’s reopening. But Israel stands firm that a withdrawal from the canal can take place only in the context of a formal peace treaty and that there must be freedom of passage for ships of all flags, including Israel’s.
These sources conceded that time has not conclusively worked in Israel’s favor. The world and the United Nations have not shown any more readiness to accept the fact of Israel’s presence on the Suez Canal and in other Arab areas than they did 15 months ago. On the other hand, they said, the situation from Israel’s standpoint is better now than it was after the Sinai campaign of 1956 when the UN demanded Israel’s withdrawal under pain of sanctions. “With this reality in mind, one can say that the immediate political aims of Israel have been achieved,” they said.
According to the diplomatic sources, Israel’s argument at the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly will be to press for peace based on agreed-upon contractual obligations and to expose Egyptian responsibility for the lack of progress toward peace. They said that questions on the Egyptian interpretation of the phrase “just and lasting peace” – found in the UN’s Nov. 22, 1967 peace resolution – submitted to Cairo over the past few weeks through UN peace envoy Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring were answered by the Egyptians in a “rude and irrelevant manner.”
(A London Daily Telegraph dispatch from Cairo today contradicted recent press reports that the Egyptian capital was in the throes of “war fever.” According to correspondent Eric Downton. “as far as I can judge, major hostilities are not imminent unless Israel strikes exceed the major incident level.” Mr. Downton reported that Cairo was as normal as it has been at any time since the June, 1967 war. The public learns from the press that the Army has been strengthened along the Suez Canal to counter possible Israeli attacks, he said, “but the official Egyptian attitude is still one of hope for a peaceful solution through the United Nations resolution, although preparations are being made in the event the Jarring mission fails,” according to the writer.)