JERUSALEM (Oct. 20)
Ambassador Gideon Rafael, director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, denied today that peace talks have been taking place between Israel and Jordan anywhere or on any level. Such reports were widely circulated in the press here and abroad yesterday. Mr. Rafael’s mention of “peace feelers” between Israel and Jordan in a radio interview yesterday made headlines in Israeli newspapers which hailed his remark as “the first official confirmation” of such contacts.
Mr. Rafael told the JTA that his reference had been solely to the current round of talks being conducted in New York by the United Nations special emissary, Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring, and was therefore “nothing new.” He specifically denied reports emanating from Cairo and widely published yesterday that direct talks between Israel officials and emissaries of the Jordanian Government had already begun in Israel-occupied territory. The Cairo report indicated that the Jordanian emissaries were prominent West Bank Arabs who had held public office in Jordan prior to the June, 1967 war, and that the Israelis involved were officials below Cabinet minister rank. Mr. Rafael told the JTA that a few months ago West Bank leaders had conveyed Israeli views to Amman and vice versa, but in recent weeks the focus of diplomatic activity had shifted to New York and no West Bank personalities were involved.
Mr. Rafael said in his radio interview that the Jordanian Government may have come to recognize that unless it makes direct approaches to Israel, the cease-fire situation and the cease-fire lines will not change. “If the consequences are drawn from this conclusion and Jordan agrees to negotiate, this will be welcomed here.” he said. Asked if Israel would be willing to negotiate with Jordan separately, even if Egypt stayed aloof, Mr. Rafael replied that Israel has always been ready to negotiate and conclude a peace treaty with any Arab state that chooses to do so.
Cairo radio today broke its week-long silence on the rumors of Israeli-Jordanian peace talks which had emanated mainly from the Egyptian capital. It broadcast a denunciation of the nine-point peace program presented by Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban to the UN General Assembly on Oct. 8 and featured a statement by El Fatah, the Jordan-based Arab guerrilla organization, that it would not rest until all Palestine is liberated, Israeli observers said the broadcasts were a sign that Egypt may have become alarmed at the prospects of a Jordan-Israel peace settlement and was trying to forestall that possibility. They believed that the Egyptian move was coordinated with the Soviet Union and that Cairo radio was silent last week because Soviet-Egyptian consultations were still in progress.
(According to New York Times correspondent Eric Pace reporting from Cairo yesterday, the alleged Israeli-Jordanian talks were being carried out “at least with the tacit approval of the Egyptian Government.” He said that was viewed by some pro-Arab observers as an indication of “Arab eagerness for a peaceful solution to the Middle East impasse.” Mr. Pace said that neither the Arab nor Israeli spokesmen had mentioned the reported exchanges in public in order not to jeopardize prospects of a peace settlement. But, he said, “informants characterized the Jordanian-Israeli talks as merely presentations of the two Governments’ views” and that since no real bargaining was involved, the talks did not amount to direct negotiations with Israel. Both sides were said to have adhered to the positions taken by their governments in separate discussions with Dr. Jarring, Mr. Pace reported.)
(The Israeli daily Maariv has reported that King Hussein vetoed a plan said to be favored by a majority of the Israeli Cabinet for the return of some territory to Jordan in exchange for guarantees of security. A full scale report on peace contacts and prospects will be made when Foreign Minister Abba Eban returns from New York this week. Mr. Eban and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. Gen. Itzhak Rabin, are returning to Jerusalem for “consultations.” A New York Times report attributed their return to increased “confusion” within the Israel Cabinet which, the Times said, appeared to be seriously split over the prospects of separate negotiations with Jordan.)