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Washington, London Press Sees Diverse Motives in Response to U.S. Peace Initiative

The new American peace initiative in the Middle East represents an abandonment of Four Power and Two Power diplomacy for direct “last chance” approach to the parties concerned, Washington Post columnist Joseph Alsop wrote today. “The Israelis, Egyptians and Jordanians got their messages from this country before the Soviets, the French and the British were told about what was afoot,” Mr. Alsop wrote. Mr. Alsop expressed belief that the odds are heavily against Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ proposals ever being accepted. But the American move will have served a useful purpose if it results in making it clear that the Soviet Union is lying when it claims that its intentions in Egypt are purely defensive, Mr. Alsop said. The Christian Science Monitor correspondent Joseph C. Harsch reported today from Washington that the United States launched its new peace initiative because it believes for the first time that the Soviet Union is genuinely interested in a peaceful settlement of the conflict. This belief stems from evidence that Moscow is deeply concerned over the encroachments of guerrilla organizations on the authority of Arab governments, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon and the covert support the guerrillas receive from Communist China. “At the State Department no one will say whether they (the Administration) were actually encouraged by the Russians to make the move at this time. But it is obvious that the move would have been made only on the assumption that the Russians do approve and will lend what help they can, albeit discreetly,” Mr. Harsch wrote.

According to the correspondent, “No one in Washington thinks the Russians want peace in the Middle East for its own sake. But this may be the moment we have all been waiting for when Russia’s self-interest and peace in the Middle East might just happen to coincide.” Monitor correspondent John K. Cooley reported from Beirut today that Secretary of State Rogers’ announcement of the new U.S. peace initiative has softened the immediate threat of violent anti-American action in the Mideast, despite President Nasser’s tough speech last Thursday and the sharp escalation of fighting between Syria and Israel. “Officially Palestinian guerrilla leaders commented negatively on the Rogers announcement… Privately, one Palestinian leader said the timing and strategy of the Rogers announcement showed mature thinking and reflected ‘a defeat for the Zionist lobby in the United States and recognition, at last, that the Palestinian people count for something in the power equation,'” Mr. Cooley wrote. He said it was regarded as significant that President Nasser voiced no new threats against U.S. interests in the Mideast in his first comment on the Rogers proposals last week, especially as he had made a specific threat in his appeal to President Nixon on May 1.

(In London, the Guardian said editorially today that the comparative reticence on the part of Israel and the Arab states over Mr. Rogers peace initiative indicates that both parties are thinking twice before killing off the American plan. The Guardian said that Premier Golda Meir’s Knesset speech today “stuck to well-worn generalities” but to endorse the Rogers plan while still in the dark over Arab reaction could cause a political crisis inside Israel. “In the end, however, if Israel’s government wants peace it will have to state beyond ambiguity that it accepts the United Nations resolution of 1957,” the Guardian said. The Daily Telegraph commented today that while there has been no clash of arms between Israel and Russia, “it could happen, and if it did what Israel wants to know above all is what America’s reaction would be.” The Telegraph’s Moscow correspondent said the key to the latest meeting of President Nasser and the Kremlin leaders may be in what Nasser reports on the strength and attitude of the Palestine guerrilla movement. The Russians have consistently criticized the more extremist elements of the movement and Nasser needs Moscow’s backing if he is to accept any peace plan in face of guerrilla opposition, the Telegraph said.)

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