Scranton Tells Israelis He Believes Peace in the Middle East is Possible

William W. Scranton. President-elect Richard M. Nixon’s personal fact-finding envoy to the Middle East, said at a press conference in the United States Embassy here today, “I now believe more in the possibility of finding a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict than when I came to this region….because everyone with whom I talked expressed a desire for peace.” Mr. Scranton, who had separate two-hour conferences yesterday with Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Foreign Minister Abba Eban, met again with Mr. Eban today at the latter’s request and also conferred with Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.

In reply to questions from newsmen, he said he believed Mr. Nixon would follow the policy enunciated In President Johnson’s five-point Middle East program of June 19,1967. He said he had no knowledge of any possible impending change in United States policy toward Israel when the Nixon Administration takes office Jan. 20, adding that he had no talks on that subject prior to leaving on his Middle East mission.

Mr. Scranton sought to clarify a statement he made in several Arab capitals–and repeated on his arrival in Israel yesterday–that the Nixon Administration would pursue a “more even-handed” policy in the Middle East and would not favor one nation over any other. That remark aroused considerable interest here and some concern that it might presage a change in U.S. Middle East policy to the detriment of Israel. Mr. Scranton explained that he meant that some statements made in the U.S. gave the impression that the U.S. was siding with one of the parties in the Middle East conflict. There was a need for a clear and direct explanation–which the new Administration will try to make to all parties–that American policy is balanced, he said. Asked if Mr. Nixon would stick to his campaign statement that Israel required a margin of military superiority over its Arab neighbors to deter ” aggression, Mr. Scranton replied that Mr. Nixon’s statement contained the proviso, “If and as long as there is a direct and imminent threat to Israel.”

Mr. Scranton sidestepped questions relating to his conclusions or the recommendations he will make to Mr, Nixon as a result of his Middle East mission. He said that he would report his impressions and will make his recommendations to the President-elect when he returns home. Asked what he considered the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East, the former Pennsylvania Governor said they were “ancient, aged and some modern animosities and distrust.” He said he carried no peace plan but that it was Mr. Nixon’s conviction that the mission of the United Nations special envoy Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring was the right path to a peaceful solution of the deadlock.

( The U N announced today that Ambassador Jarring left his Nicosia. Cyprus headquarters yesterday for Sweden and Moscow. During his temporary absence to resume his post as Sweden’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union, his headquarters will continue to be in Nicosia.)

Mr. Scranton disclosed that Israel’s security borders was one of the main subjects of his talks with Its leaders. He said, “we went into great detail on this subject” including “territorial” matters. Mr. Scranton’s talks with Mr. Eshkol yesterday were described In Jerusalem as “a very frankly exchange” In a “friendly and free atmosphere.” Mr. Eban reportedly emphasized Israel’s argument that it must be supplied with sufficient military strength to deter aggression. He also reportedly said that support of Israel by other countries did not worsen their relations with the Arabs. Mr. Eshkol Is reported to have told Mr. Scranton that Israel would oppose any proposed settlement of Its dispute with the Arabs that fell short of a signed peace treaty. He also reportedly repeated Israel’s opposition to stationing of U N troops at the Strait of Tiran or on the Suez Canal as a means of ensuring free passage of all ships. He outlined the events leading up to the June. 1967 war which, he said, was the result of 19 years of unrelieved Arab hostility, Israel, he reportedly said, will under no circumstances allow events to follow the same course as they did prior to the 1967 war. He also informed Mr. Scranton of various views under discussion in the Cabinet concerning future relations with the Arab countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Allon reportedly explained to Mr. Scranton his plan to partition the West Bank between an Arab enclave and a chain of Israeli security settlements along the banks of the Jordan River with a corridor linking the Arab areas to Jordan. He reportedly said the basis of his plan was Israel’s view that the Jordan River must remain Its security border, and that his view was shared by most Cabinet members.

Sheikh Mohammed All Jaabari, Mayor of Hebron, conferred for 20 minutes today with Mr. Scranton. The Arab leader reportedly presented no concrete plan but asked that the U.S. take the Palestinians’ interests into account when It advocates or proposes any form of settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict. Mayor Jaabari, who has advocated the establishment of a separate Palestinian entity on the West Bank, was the only West Bank leader to meet with Mr. Scranton. although two others had requested an interview. Mayor Hamdi Kanaan of Nablus and Mayor Nadim Zaro of Ramallah failed to show up when they learned that they would be received with the Hebron Mayor. Both are strongly opposed to Mayor Jaabari’s views and consider themselves Jordanians. They reportedly feared that the disunity in Palestine Arab ranks might have been exposed to Mr. Scranton if they attended a meeting Jointly with Mayor Jaabari.

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