LONDON (Dec. 21)
Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister, told a press conference here that events had confirmed Israel’s prediction that the Four Power talks on the Middle East would be fruitless and added that “everything in the area has gone amiss”. He said that international policy for the area should have the goal of bringing the two sides together for a settlement.
He also indicated again that Israel had softened its demand for direct talks with the Arabs, saying that Israel’s policy was not “direct talks” but “peace” and that talks, whether direct or of the “Rhodes” type–under an objective chairman– were considered only a matter of techniques once the principle of negotiation was accepted by the Arabs. He said Israel would agree to any reasonable form of talks as long as they were between the parties to the dispute. The negotiations which culminated in the 1949 armistice agreements between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries were conducted on the Island of Rhodes under the chairmanship of Dr. Ralph Bunche as a United Nations mediator.
On the substance of the talks, the Foreign Minister asserted that “everything is negotiable.” He specified Israel’s recognition of the universal religious significance of Jerusalem and he hinted about the possibility of establishing some kind of “community relationship” with Jordan once peace was established.
He said he agreed that his talks in Washington last week with Secretary of State Rogers were cordial but emphasized that Israel was worried about “contradictions” in the U.S. attitude, particularly on American suggestions about Israel-Egyptian boundaries. He said that the new U.S. policy contradicted the U.S. principle that there could not be a Mideast settlement without agreement by both Israel and the Arabs. He added that these differences did not mean any “collapse” of American-Israel friendship.
He echoed recent complaints by Premier Golda Meir about the positions of Britain and France. He said that if those countries had bowed to Arab pressure and refused to sell arms to Israel, they had no right to act as “umpires” in the Big Four talks. He said Britain was now not “in the middle of the road” but “on the wrong side of the road.”
He said Israel was entitled to both Mirage planes from France and Chieftain tanks from Britain because it was recognized that Israel needed those weapons to maintain the balance of power in the area. He said the two countries had barred those weapons to Israel out of fear of an unfavorable reaction from the Arabs. Israel bought and paid for 50 Mirage jets from France but Gen. Charles de Gaulle, as French President, embargoed their shipment to Israel in June, 1967, an embargo maintained by his successor, Georges Pompidou. The Eban press conference received nationwide television, radio and press coverage.