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Eban Says Time Has Come for Israel to Decide Its Position in Arab Talks

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Foreign Minister Abba S. Eban said yesterday that although there had been no dialogue between Israel and any Arab state yet, he thought the stage had been reached for Israel to decide what positions it will take should peace talks with the Arabs materialize. Mr. Eban spoke in New York in a taped interview that was broadcast by Kol Israel, the state radio.

He said Israel must reconsider her position in light of possible negotiations with an Arab state but he noted that there was no reply yet from Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad to Israel’s memorandum detailing its peace proposals. The memorandum was forwarded to Egypt through the United Nations special peace emissary. Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring. Mr. Eban said the Arabs probably realized that a categorical rejection of the Israeli proposals would be censured by world opinion and therefore preferred to keep silent for the time being. He said “we must maintain a continuous dialogue (with the Arabs) if possible.” Foreign Ministry sources said today that no date has been set for Mr. Eban’s return to Israel for “consultations,” reported yesterday. It appeared meanwhile that Cabinet discussions on political matters would be deferred until Mr. Eban returns. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol did not attend the Cabinet session because of a virus infection.

It was learned that Defense Minister Dayan’s statement of last Wednesday that no early peace agreement with any Arab government could be expected was challenged in the Cabinet today by Minister of Health Israel Barzilai of Mapam. Gen. Dayan replied and both Mr. Barzilai’s question and his answer have been forwarded to Mr. Eshkol.

Sources close to Mr. Eshkol denied reports that Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Britain had suggested that Israel should announce its willingness to implement the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution without any prior agreement between it and the Arab governments. The proposal was rumored to have been contained in a recent letter from Mr. Wilson to Mr. Eshkol. The sources said that while there has been an exchange of views between the two heads of Government, Britain still places an agreement before implementation of the resolution, which has been its stand in the past.

Mr. Eban conferred in Ottawa today with Prime Minister Trudeau and Secretary of State for External Affairs Mitchell Sharp. He was also scheduled to meet with former Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Earlier, he told reporters in Toronto that reports that the Cabinet was split over possible peace talks were absurd. He said the Cabinet was fully behind the nine-point peace program he presented to the United Nations General Assembly Oct. 8.

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