JERUSALEM (Mar. 5)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban declared today at a press conference, as he prepared to leave for Washington next week, that Israel will never return to the conditions that existed before the June. 1967 war or repeat its previous mistake of accepting a stop-gap settlement that would “explode in our face.” Mr. Eban said he put much more faith in the peace-seeking mission of the United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring than in four power talks on the Middle East. “The four powers have interests of their own in the area while Jarring has only one interest and that is that of the international community and its yearning for peace.”
He said he would meet with Dr. Jarring probably on Sunday. He asked the UN emissary to post pone his visit to Jerusalem until next Sunday because tasks relating to the formation of a new government would keep Mr. Eban occupied until then. (Dr. Jarring arrived in Cairo for a new round of talks with Egyptian leaders today. His arrival coincided with an announcement in the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram that President Nasser would propose the highest defense budget in Egypts history.)
Mr. Eban said that he hoped to learn more in Washington about the U.S. attitude toward the Middle East, especially in the aftermath of President Nixon’s European visit and his talks with various Western leaders. He would make clear, he said, Israel’s position–there must be an agreed peace settlement arising from direct negotiations with the Arabs, one that would establish agreed, secure frontiers. He said he agreed with President Nixon’s press conference remark that bringing Israelis and Arabs to the peace table could be accomplished in a few days. Nevertheless, Mr. Eban said, the international atmosphere can contribute to the possibility of a meeting in which peace can be negotiated. He said he did not anticipate any change or break in Israel’s foreign policy while a new government was being established because it was clear that the present national unity coalition would continue.
President Richard M. Nixon made clear his firm belief yesterday that Mideast peace depends upon a Soviet manifestation of sincere interest in a settlement. Whether it will be forthcoming will be made clear, he indicated, in coming days. The President told a nationally televised press conference devoted exclusively to foreign affairs that he was “cautiously hopeful” about progress toward a Mideast solution and that there had been “considerable progress” in this connection in the past week.
Mr. Nixon said that he and Secretary of State William P. Rogers had had “encouraging talks” with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin on the Mideast. These bi-lateral discussions will go on, he said, “and if they continue at their present rate of progress, it seems likely that there will be four power discussions In the United Nations on the Mideast.” He declared that four power talks cannot lead to an Imposed settlement. “The time has passed in which great nations can dictate to small nations their future, where their vital interests are involved,” he declared.
The value of the four power talks, the President told some 200 newsmen, is that they “can indicate those areas where they believe the parties directly involved in the Mideast could have profitable discussions. At the present time, they are having no discussions at all. And second–and this is even the more important part of it–from the four power conference can come an absolute essential to any kind of a peaceful settlement…and that is a major power guarantee of the settlement.” He noted, however, that Israel and the neighboring Arab nations cannot be expected to concur in a settlement unless “they think there is a better chance that it will be guaranteed in the future than has been the case in the past.”
The President, noting that the Soviet rearming of the Arabs was responsible for the current “crisis” said he believed Moscow nevertheless wanted to avoid a “confrontation” with the U.S. that could occur if events In the Mideast got out of control. His “cautious conclusion” was that “the Soviet Union will play possibly a peace-making role in the Mideast” as well as in Vietnam. “I say a cautious conclusion because I base this only on talks that have taken place up to this time, but we are going to explore that road all the way that we can, because, let’s face it, without the Soviet Union’s cooperation, the Mideast is going to continue to be a terrible dangerous area…”
He said that “we’re far away from the time when the Arabs and the Israelis can sit at a negotiating table.” The President went on to say: “I believe that by the time we very carefully go down this road of bilateral consultations first–four-power consultations–and, incidentally, we’re going to consult with the Israelis when they come here–Mr. (Abba) Eban is going to be here–there will be, I am sure, consultations on the other side as well. I think that when we complete our course of action and come up, if we can, with a four-power recommendation for proceeding, that then it might be possible to bring both sides to a conference table. That is our hope.”
The President also said that the Mideast would be the first subject of formal talks between the U.S. and Russian Governments on the highest level, if they took place. He said that the U.S. is not telling Russia that there are any preconditions–such as a show of goodwill on the Mideast issue–for talks it wants on strategic arms limitations. “Our attitude toward the Soviet is not a high-handed one of trying to tell them that you do this or we won’t talk. Our attitude is very conciliatory…”, he said. Mr. Nixon pointed out that as a result of his meetings in Europe with President Charles de Gaulle of France and Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Britain, the French and British positions are closer to America’s than ever before.
Asked by a reporter whether he would visit Israel (as suggested by Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Robert Finch in Israel last week), the President said he had no current plans for any additional overseas junket, noting with a smile–apparently alluding to the Finch comment–that this was the case although “other travelers have committed me to various trips abroad. He apparently reinforced his opposition to any enforced Mideast settlement when he said that Europeans had expressed concern that a U.S.-USSR “condominium” would make decisions affecting their future without consulting them. This, he said, will not happen.