JERUSALEM (Mar. 20)
Israel’s leaders are engaged in an 11th hour effort to forestall the forthcoming Big Four talks on the Middle East which they fear would result in an imposed solution without any real peace between Israel and its neighbors. The seriousness with which Israel regards that prospect was reflected in statements in the past two days by Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and Foreign Minister Abba Eban who is currently visiting the United States. Mrs. Meir reiterated her government’s opposition to Four Power talks to U.S. Ambassador Walworth Barbour yesterday. She was reported to have told him that they would not advance peace but rather would merely provide the Arabs with a further pretext to oppose any form of negotiations with Israel.
Gen. Dayan, in an address at the Haifa Technion yesterday, declared that Israel must reject any attempt by the Big Four to impose a Mideast solution even if it carried explicit guarantees by the United States and the Soviet Union. “I would not accept the guarantees of the Soviet Union nor would I even accept U.S. guarantees,” Gen. Dayan said. “They did not fight. We must not accept them as our guardians and we must not become captive to their attempts,” he said, adding, “nor should we accept safeguards of the United Nations.”
Israel’s determined stand against a Four Power solution has created some differences with the administration of President Nixon, who was reportedly determined to proceed with Big Four talks even though conceding that they might fail. Mrs. Meir said at a press conference Tuesday that there were some disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem. Foreign Ministry officials yesterday denied press reports that Israel might break off its dialogue with the U.S. if Washington insisted on retaining certain boundary suggestions attributed to Secretary of State William P. Rogers as a basis for discussion.
There was no confirmation from American or Israeli spokesmen of the so-called Rogers plan, but informed sources here said the Secretary of State had proposed a settlement based on the defunct 1949 armistice lines, with some frontier adjustments. According to the informants, the plan called for ceding the Gaza Strip to Jordan in return for the Latrun area and parts of Jerusalem’s environs. The boundary with Egypt would remain the same as the one fixed during the British Mandate of Palestine, the one existing before the June, 1967 war. Other features of the reported plan said to have been presented to Foreign Minister Eban in his talks with Mr. Rogers last week called for stationing a UN force at the Strait of Tiran and a Four Power guarantee of the whole arrangement. Israel has categorically rejected the old armistice lines as well as a return of UN peace-keeping forces, which, Israel has noted, failed twice before to prevent war.
Reports reaching here from Washington today said that Israel’s objections have delayed the start of Four Power talks on the Mideast which were reportedly about to begin on an ambassadorial level at the UN. U.S. officials were quoted as saying that the talks probably would not get under way until early next month. According to the Washington sources, the Nixon Administration has not succeeded in dispelling Israel’s fears that the talks would result in an imposed solution that would not adequately guarantee Israel’s security. U.S. officials reportedly contend that Israel has misinterpreted the intent and scope of the Big Four, meeting. They said the Nixon Administration simply wanted to work out “areas of agreement” with the other powers–Britain, France and Russia–to give UN mediator Gunnar V. Jarring additional support. The U.S. was reportedly skeptical about whether the Soviets would really agree to any compromise solution the Arabs resist but was nevertheless willing to try to find out.