JERUSALEM (Jan. 21)
A hard-line speech by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt in which he extolled Arab guerrillas and pledged them all-out support was cited by an Israeli official today as proof — “if further proof were needed” — of his Government’s links with Palestinian terrorist groups.
Gideon Rafael, director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry, said on a radio interview that Col. Nasser’s speech reflected and exposed the “helplessness” of his domestic situation and the “dead end” toward which Egyptian foreign policy was leading.
President Nasser, addressing the new Egyptian National Assembly yesterday, claimed, “We are not war-mongers—we are working for peace.” But the Egyptian leader declared that his country will never “sit to negotiate with an enemy who is occupying our territory” and that it would fight before it agreed to “cede an inch.” Although he made no mention of the United States, his remarks were believed to constitute Egypt’s reaction to the United States note to the Soviet Union which proposed an Israeli withdrawal, but not to the borders of June, 1967, and urged Moscow and other capitals “to use all their influence to stop the grave increase of Arab terrorist operations” against Israel. The text of the note, which had been made available to Egyptian officials, was published in the semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Ahram and received an angry reception. Al Ahram is known to reflect President Nasser’s views.
(In Washington, U.S. officials expressed surprise at the vehement reaction of Egypt to the Johnson Administration’s note to Moscow which they considered to be fairly balanced between the Israeli and Arab positions. The note was in reply to Moscow’s Dec. 30 proposal for a Middle East solution based on a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied Arab territories and declarations of non-belligerency by both parties. The U.S. note called for an ultimate Middle East settlement “based on agreement” between Israel and the Arab states and withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories to secure, recognized frontiers “which should not reflect the weight of conflict.” Officials in Washington believed the latter phrase went a long way toward meeting Arab demands although it would not have Israel withdraw behind the borders that existed before the June, 1967 war.
(The U.S. note also called for Arab-Israeli negotiations under United Nations auspices, demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula and limits on arms shipments to the Middle East. The Egyptian reaction was viewed as a “good-by kick” to the Johnson Administration which has been accused in Cairo of anti-Arab bias. President Nasser’s words were believed intended primarily for President Richard M. Nixon to whom the Arabs look for changes is American Middle East policy favorable to them.)
Col. Nasser said in his Cairo speech that the only way to force an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories was by fighting. He claimed that his forces were much stronger than before the 1967 war and hinted that they were bolstered by contingents from Kuwait and Algeria. He paid tribute to Soviet help. But the loudest applause in the National Assembly came at the mention of President de Gaulle, of France, who Col. Nasser called “one of the greatest men of our century.”
Britain’s views on Soviet peace initiatives on the Middle East coincide with those of the United States, but Britain so far has not made any formal reply to Russia, much to Moscow’s annoyance, London sources reported there was no official explanation for Whitehall’s delay. The U.S. position, as stated in a note to the Soviet Government, placed emphasis on an Arab-Israeli agreement through the mediation of United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring. The Foreign Office was said to be making further diplomatic soundings before replying to the Kremlin.