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View from Washington: First Step for Mideast Peace but Still Long Way Toward Solution

Official Washington indicated today that it believes the first small step has been taken toward an eventual peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict. The approval by Israel’s Cabinet on Friday of Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ proposals for a 90-day cease-fire and negotiations under the aegis of United Nations peace envoy Gunnar V. Jarring, was greeted here with a sense of relief that the first obstacle to peace may have been overcome although the final goal remains as distant and elusive as ever. The Rogers’ proposals were accepted earlier by Egypt and Jordan with apparently firm backing from the Soviet Union. The U.S. government is now awaiting Israel’s official reply, the text of which is being drafted in Jerusalem. It is not expected to be received here however before Wednesday. President Nixon set the tone of cautious optimism at a press briefing Friday at the San Clemente summer White House. Emerging from a two-end-a-half hour meeting with Secretary Rogers, Mr. Nixon announced Israel’s acceptance. But he warned, “We have a long way to go. This is only a first step.” In effect. President Nixon was saying that the American initiative has only set the stage for Arab-Israeli negotiations, not arranged a settlement itself.

The developments so far are regarded as a personal triumph for Secretary Rogers and his credo of “quiet diplomacy.” It was Mr. Rogers’ proposals to Israel and the Arab states, coupled with a plea to “stop shooting and start talking” that is credited with having breached the Mideast impasse for the first time since the June, 1967 war. The Nixon administration apparently succeeded in winning Soviet cooperation through firm warnings to Moscow of the disastrous consequences of a confrontation. Jerusalem was apparently satisfied with American assurances that the cease-fire would not be used to expand Soviet SAM-2 and SAM-3 missile sites in the area. The U.S. assurances were said to have been based on private messages from Moscow and Cairo. Twice in his press briefing. Mr. Nixon stressed that the cease-fire would not be used by either side to gain military advantage.

NIXON REASSURES ISRAEL THERE WILL BE MILITARY STANDSTILL; SENATORS HAIL ISRAEL’S DECISION

On Thursday night. President Nixon, in a late evening news conference televised from Los Angeles, reassured Israel that accepting the U.S. peace plan posed no danger that “by entering negotiations her position might be compromised or jeopardized in that period.” In an effort to allay Israel’s fears that the 90-day cease-fire would be used by Egypt and the Soviet Union to build up their military forces, Pres. Nixon asserted that one of the conditions of the U.S. plan was that “there will be a military standstill” during the cease-fire period. He added: “I indicated on July 1 in a television broadcast… the position of this government insofar as Israel’s security is concerned and our commitment to maintain the balance of power in the Mideast.” (New York Times correspondent Hedrick Smith said today that Israel was told by the U.S. in June that its request for more Phantom jets was being held in abeyance until the cease-fire has run its course.)

Israel’s acceptance of the Rogers proposals was hailed by two Senate leaders. Democratic Majority Leader Mike Mansfield expressed gratification because the proposals offered an opening now and possible opportunity later. He added, however, that Israel had little choice but to accept. The Montana Democrat used the word “squeezed” to describe Israel’s position, an apparent reference to its reliance on the Nixon administration’s willingness to provide Israel with more combat jets. Sen. Jacob K. Javits, of New York, a ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday that Israel’s move “opens the door to Mideast peace.” He said that President Nixon’s statement that there would be no military build-up in Egypt during the cease-fire had made the difference in Israel’s acceptance. He said, “I feel that the backing given to President Nixon’s basic Mideast policy declaration of July 1 by 71 senators…was a vital element in enabling the President to give these assurances.” Sen. Javits was one of 10 senators who wrote and circulated the letter supporting President Nixon. With Israel’s official acceptance still awaited, there was no indication here when the 90-day cease-fire would be put into effect. Secretary Rogers originally proposed the period July 1 -Oct. 1. U.S. officials reportedly plan a new round of talks in Cairo. Amman and Jerusalem, possibly beginning this week. They will concentrate on winning the three governments’ approval of previously outlined detailed procedures for enforcing the cease-fire.

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