PARIS (Feb. 5)
Israel’s conditions for peace with the Arabs were unveiled here, apparently for the first time, today in an interview given by Foreign Minister Abba Eban to the newspaper Le Figaro. Mr. Eban referred specifically and in detail to the permanent boundaries that Israel will demand and stressed that they are based primarily on his nation’s security needs, not on a desire for territorial expansion.
Mr. Eban’s remarks were seen by observers here as a reply to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s peace proposals published in the current edition of News week magazine. They were also viewed as the opening of an Israeli peace offensive, prompted by the strong likelihood that Big Four talks on the Middle East, proposed by France, will take place.
The Foreign Minister told what areas Israel considers non-negotiable under any circumstances. These include Sharm el-Shiekh, commanding the Straits of Tiran, where Israel will insist on retaining a military force to guarantee non-closure to Israeli shipping; the Golan heights of Syria which, Israel insists, can never again be used by Syrian gunners to blast settlements; and the unified city of Jerusalem, the capital, which Israel will never yield. Mr. Eban said, however, that Jordan might be allowed custody over East Jerusalem sites containing Moslem holy places.
Mr. Eban emphatically rejected the concept of a separate West Bank Palestinian entity as “unrealistic and even dangerous.” He said the West Bank’s future would have to be settled in an Israeli-Jordan peace treaty. He recalled that Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had said that the Jordan River must be Israel’s “security frontier” though not necessarily a political boundary. And he cited a plan proposed some months ago by Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon under which Jordan would have political control over demilitarized portions of the West Bank, but only after a modification of the frontier based on Israel’s security needs. He said Israel would insist that new boundaries remain “open frontiers” because “it would be absurd that the iron curtain which has been lifted by the cease-fire should descend with the conclusion of peace.”
Mr. Eban said the status of the Sinai Peninsula and the EI Arish region was entirely different from that of the West Bank because it lacks a sizeable local Arab population. He described the region’s future as “an open question” on which Israel is prepared to negotiate, except for “certain points of rigidity” essential to security.
Mr. Eban made it plain that Israel will never agree to restoration of the frontiers of June 4, 1967 the day before the Six-Day War broke out. He also emphasized that 1949 armistice lines were legally termed “temporary and not definite borders.” There is, Mr. Eban declared, a major juridical difference. He ruled out talks with representatives of EI Fatah or other Arab guerrilla groups. “With Jordan we can discuss a common frontier. EI Fatah, however, questions Israel’s very existence and this ideology ipso facto eliminates any possibility of a dialogue between the two sides.” The Figaro interview made no mention of Israel’s right of free passage through the Suez Canal or of the Palestinian refugee problem, both considered to be major factors in any future peace talks.