WASHINGTON (Jun. 22)
Gideon Rafael, director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, met here this weekend with White House and State Department officials for an exchange of views on the current Mideast situation following the Soviet reply to United States peace proposals. His discussions precede the forthcoming visit to Washington of Israel Premier Golda Meir.
The content of the talks were not disclosed. They were described as an exchange of views on current topics. Mr. Rafael met with Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s top advisor on foreign affairs. A number of State Department officials, including Undersecretary of State Elliot Richardson and Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, tendered a dinner in his honor. The diplomat also met with Richard Palmer. Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs, and discussed United Nations matters.
Mrs. Meir’s long rumored visit to Washington was confirmed by President Nixon at his press conference on Thursday. He said he had met with King Hussein and added, “I am hoping to meet sometime within the next month with the Prime Minister of Israel.” He added that the U.S. intends to have “bilateral talks, multilateral talks, and whatever talks are possible” in order to find a Mideast solution. No date was announced for the Meir visit. But Presidential press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler said that she had accepted an invitation and would probably come in July,
The President was asked to comment on developments in the Mideast since his remarks five months ago that the Arab-Israeli situation was explosive and needed “de-fusing.” He said he saw very little “de-fusing” since then but thought that things might be somewhat better because of the Big Four talks. He also thought that some measure of agreement might be obtained from all parties, including Russia.
But prospects of Soviet agreement to U.S. peace proposals appeared dim. Administration officials conceded “disappointment” over the Soviet response to a U.S. statement of principles submitted May 26. The Soviet reply was received by Secretary of State William P. Rogers last Tuesday following Cairo consultations between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko and President Gamal Abdel Nasser. State Department officials characterized the Soviet response as a carefully worded “holding operation.” They gathered that Russia wanted neither to break off international attempts to find a solution to the conflict nor to indicate any significant narrowing of the gap between Israel and the Arab states. (Israel has still not been given a text of the Soviet document given to Secretary Rogers, well-informed Jerusalem sources said. Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the Cabinet today that there was no indication of progress in the Big Four talks.)
Neither the Soviet note nor the U.S. proposals have been made public. But the U.S. was believed to have asked Russia and its Arab allies to accept four points; Peace should be restored through a single “package” accord, not in phases; the accord must be “contractual” among the parties concerned and not imposed from outside; future frontiers must be agreed upon by the parties themselves and not defined by the Big Powers; frontiers should “not reflect the weight of conquest.”
Cairo reports last week Indicated that President Nasser categorically rejected these terms. The Soviet response to Washington reportedly conveyed his objections with little indication that a way around them could be found. Nevertheless, according to State Department officials, it was clear that both Moscow and Cairo want to keep the Big Four talks going.
(The semi-official Cairo newspaper Al Ahram reported last week that Mr. Gromyko had given President Nasser the “final say” on whether the Soviet Union should continue taking part in bilateral talks between the Soviet Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly F. Dobrynin, and Mr. Sisco. They have been going on concurrently with the Big Four talks in New York and are regarded by observers to be the more consequential of the two. According to Al Ahram, Col. Nasser approved continued discussions with the understanding that Egypt would never yield on three points–no direct talks with Israel, no territorial concessions and no settlement of the Palestine refugee problem without the refugees’ consent.)