WASHINGTON (Mar. 5)
The United States policy on the Mideast indicated by President Nixon’s press conference remarks was defined here today by French and other diplomatic sources as involving a “phased roll-back” of Israeli occupation forces with a major power guarantee that falls short of the direct peace settlement desired by Israel.
A step-by-step process Is conceived, sources said, in which the Arabs would be encouraged by the Soviet Union and France to make peace as Israeli forces withdraw from point after point to a “series of security belts” or “security points.” By the time Israeli withdrawal is completed, “fully guaranteed” by the United States and other major powers, it is hoped that disengagement would be so effectively achieved that the Arabs would be willing to sign a formal peace and grant recognition to Israel.
The withdrawal system from Sinai, beginning at the canal, would also be accompanied by other withdrawal systems worked out for the West Bank, sources said.
The case for a prior, face-to-face Arab-Israeli settlement has been considered by the U.S. and reportedly found by President Nixon to be unattainable in the light of his talks with French President de Gaulle and others. This was the information gathered from a variety of reliable diplomatic quarters.
Officials said it would not be a case of an “imposed” or “dictated” settlement but that very heavy pressure would be brought upon Israel to accept what Mr. Nixon termed a “major power guarantee.”
Some observers said that Mr. Nixon revised his Mideast policy after ascertaining that there was no forward motion on Vietnam peace. The Soviet Union and France have hinted that U.S. efforts to obtain the reopening of the Suez Canal might facilitate exertion of influence on Hanoi by Moscow and Paris. The first step in the so-called “phased withdrawal” is said to involve that very point–the Suez Canal.
President Nixon is said to see peace in Vietnam as the top priority of his Administration and an accommodation in the Mideast as a means of not only achieving this aim but also reducing chances of a dangerous confrontation with the Russians over Israel. Big Four talks on the “phased roll-back” plan are expected within two weeks, a French source said. Some elements of the envisaged plan were reportedly conveyed by Mr. Nixon yesterday to some 20 Congressional leaders at a White House briefing. They were not mentioned in the President’s press conference.