Mrs. Meir: Israel Approached Egypt at Least 20 Times for Secret Peace Talks

Premier Golda Meir claimed in an interview published here yesterday that Israel has approached Egypt at least 20 times with an offer of secret peace negotiations but “never got the slightest response.” The latest offer was made only two weeks ago, just before President Gamal Abdel Nasser left Cairo on his current visit to Moscow, according to the interview with Mrs. Meir published in the news magazine, L’Express. President Nasser went to Moscow on June 29, indicating that the Israeli offer was made in the last week of June. Observers here said that Mrs. Meir’s was the first disclosure that Israel has offered to negotiate secretly with Egypt. Mrs. Meir and Foreign Minister Abba Eban have said in the past that Israel has been using every possible means to make contact with the Arabs without success. The Israeli leader was asked by L’Express if she thought she had let any chances for peace slip by. “If I thought I had let even the smallest chance get away I could not in all conscience today hold the post of premier,” she replied. “We’ve done everything. Do you hear me: Everything. They tell for example that (Egyptian President) Nasser cannot accept public negotiations. Well, we’ve proposed secret conversations–five, ten, 20 times and again two weeks ago. We never got the slightest response.” (In Washington, State Department spokesman Carl Bartch said today there was “no information” about Israel’s approaches to Egypt. He declined further comment.)

The 73-year-old Israeli Premier has been sensitive to intimations that she has not followed every possible avenue toward peace with the Arabs since her government vetoed a projected visit to Cairo last April by Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress. Mrs. Meir was bitter in her estimate of Soviet intentions in the Middle East. Asked if she thought Russia wanted to destroy Israel, she said, “I believe that on the level of ideas, the Soviet Government means nothing. The people who govern in Moscow are not idealists but the worst kind of imperialists. They want to implant themselves in the Middle East and, to succeed in this, they are using the dreams of Nasser. On this road they will go as far as America will let them.” Asked if Israel expected the Arabs to agree to peace talks while their territory was occupied. Mrs. Meir said, “We don’t care about the territories. What we want is security. As for Nasser, it is no longer the territories which interest him, but victory. In any case, what does he say? He is not content to demand our withdrawal to the most vulnerable possible frontiers. He is also talking about restoring the rights of the Palestine people.” Mrs. Meir indicated that Israel had no objection to the rights of the Palestinian people provided they set up their own state away from Israel.

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