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Israel Plans to Send Cabinet Member to Confer with Nixon After Inauguration

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A Cabinet member, possibly Foreign Minister Abba Eban, will go to the United States in late winter or early spring to meet with President Nixon and members of the new Administration, Government sources said today. They said nothing definite had been decided about the visit except that Israel’s views should be presented authoritatively and at the highest level to try to forestall any new Middle East policy decision by the U.S. before Israel has presented its case.

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had planned to meet the new President next April. However, the Cabinet believes that an earlier meeting is required. Contacts are expected to be initiated with the White House and the State Department soon after Jan. 20 when the Nixon Administration takes office. If a date can be set, a Cabinet member may go to Washington in February or March, the sources said.

Mr. Eban assured worried members of the Knesset (Parliament) yesterday that the U.S. was not likely to alter its basic policy of support for Israel now or when the Nixon Administration takes office. He said, however, that it was too early to guess the details of Mr. Nixon’s Middle East policy, adding, “In the meantime we are maintaining as close contact as possible with the new Administration.”

Mr. Eban spoke in reply to questions by Avraham Verdiger of the Poalei Agudat Israel faction and Daniel Levi of the National Religious Party. They and other MKs expressed concern over the remarks of former Gov. William W. Scranton who toured the Middle East as President-elect Nixon’s personal fact-finding envoy. Mr. Scranton said the U.S. should pursue a “more even-handed” policy in the Middle East and demonstrate its interest in the welfare of all nations of the region, not just one. Mr. Eban said that Gov. Scranton’s views were not shared by Mr. Nixon or by President Johnson. He said that Israel accepted the statements made by Mr. Nixon during the Presidential campaign which supported Israel’s stand for a negotiated peace with the Arabs and promised to maintain a margin of military superiority for Israel in order to deter aggression. Mr. Eban said also, “It is our impression that the present Administration has not changed its policies since election day.” He said that President Johnson. President-elect Nixon and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson all support a Middle East peace attained through negotiations between the parties concerned and oppose a solution imposed from outside the region.

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