JERUSALEM (Dec. 9)
President-elect Richard M. Nixon’s personal fact-finding envoy to the Middle East, William W. Scranton, conferred for two hours with Foreign Minister Abba Eban today and was later received by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. Mr. Scranton also reportedly intended to talk to Palestinian Arab leaders whom he was to see at the United States Consulate here.
No details of the conversations were released. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, David Rivlin, told reporters that Mr. Scranton had conveyed to Mr. Eban the wish of Mr. Nixon to study the problems of the area and Israel’s view of them. Mr. Eban gave a detailed account of Israel’s position, emphasizing its insistence on a lasting peace reached through an agreement with her neighbors which would also establish secure boundaries. He reportedly stressed Israel’s willingness to explore every possible means for peace but said that no corresponding desire had been demonstrated by Egypt which refuses to enter into a serious discussion of the issues relating to peace. Soviet penetration into the Mediterranean was also reportedly discussed.
According to reliable sources Mr. Scranton made a point of telling Mr. Eban that Mr. Nixon does not feel bound by any statements of policy made by anyone in the present Administration. Including President Johnson and the State Department. He reportedly believes that the principles of American policy will not change. But Mr. Scranton reportedly did not explain the statement he made in several Arab capitals during his current tour of the Middle East — and repeated to newsmen at the Allenby Bridge today – that the U.S. “will pursue a more even-handed policy” in the Middle East when the Nixon Administration takes office next month.
The former Governor of Pennsylvania said the U.S. would show no favoritism in the future toward any nation because “it had to consider the feelings of all nations in the Middle East and not favor one over the other.” In reply to a reporter’s question, he said he did not think the U.S. was showing favoritism at present. Mr. Scranton reportedly told Mr. Eban that his duty was to report to the President-elect and he was bound to study problems from their grass-roots without being affected by past policy.
Mr. Scranton entered Israel via the Allenby Bridge which he crossed on foot owing to the ban on vehicular traffic from Jordan to the West Bank. He conferred yesterday in Amman with King Hussein and other Jordanian officials. On Saturday he met with Egyptian President Abdel Gamal Nasser in Cairo. He also visited Iran, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. Israel is the last country on his Middle East itinerary.
Mr. Scranton told newsmen here that he was encouraged by his visits to the Arab capitals. He said at a press conference in Amman yesterday that President Nasser and Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad were “very open, frank and desirous of a reasonable and just settlement.” He also said that Arab leaders looked forward to a change in American Middle East policy though, he added, their views were not precise. According to reports from Amman, King Hussein indicated that one change he wanted was resumption of U.S. military aid to Jordan to help it even the arms balance with Israel and to ease pressure on him to seek assistance from the Soviet Union. Reports from Amman said that King Hussein told Gov. Scranton that he considered last week’s Israeli air raid on Iraqi military positions in Jordan not a reprisal but an attempt to topple him from his throne. He said Israel held him responsible for the Iraqi artillery attacks on Israeli settlements and the incursions of commando groups but that he controlled neither. A radio broadcast from Beirut made public a note that was delivered to Gov. Scranton last week by a group of Lebanese leaders who protested American support for Israel and warned that it might push the Arab world into the Communist camp. The signatories included two former Foreign Ministers, Dr. Charles Malik and Dr. Georges Hakim. The note claimed that U.S. support of Israel was incompatible with Arab rights and violated the right of self-determination, Mr. Scranton said in Israel that he would not reach any conclusions on the Middle East until he summed up his impressions from all the countries visited.