LONDON (Feb. 27)
British newspapers took the position today that the sudden death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol of Israel has harmed chances for a peaceful settlement of the Middle East crisis. The papers based their consensus on Mr. Eshkol’s talents as a conciliator and as a “stabilizing factor” in Israel’s Government.
The Daily Telegraph said his death “brings an additional element of instability into the Middle East at a time when…prospects of progress toward a settlement are already depressing enough.” The London Times said Mr. Eshkol’s “Political talents will be missed” and added, “only a chairman of genius could have reconciled the intense personal and political rivalries of the parties and their leaders.” The Times and the Guardian expressed the belief that Mr. Eshkol’s successor will be less concerned with putting coalition unity before anything else. The Guardian said Mr. Eshkol “was the man who might have induced his compatriots to accept less than they might have considered just or expedient.” The papers felt that, in any event, the Israel Government now must thrash out what its minimum demands are for a settlement with the Arabs and state them publicly.
Reports from Cairo and Beirut today indicated that Mr. Eshkol’s death has created considerable uneasiness in the Arab world. The semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Ahram saw in the appointment of Gen. Yigal Allon as acting Prime Minister “a new step toward reaffirmation of the military’s authority” and no change in Israel’s “aggressive” policies. The paper thought matters would be even worse from the Arab point of view if Defense Minister Moshe Dayan were to take power. Daily Telegraph correspondent Clare Hollingworth reported from Cairo that Arab diplomats agree “there will be turmoil resulting in trouble for Egypt arising from Mr. Eshkol’s death.” The Times reported from Beirut that Arab leaders are concerned because they regarded Mr. Eshkol as “a voice of restraint in an increasingly militant Cabinet and feel that now the delicate balance will be tipped in favor of the hawks.”