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Israel’s Reply: Cease-fire on the Basis of Reciprocity; Peace Treaty Before Withdrawal

Premier Golda Meir told the Knesset today that her government has accepted the United States’ peace initiative for the Middle East on the basis of President Richard M. Nixon’s assurances that Israel will not be placed at a military disadvantage by so doing. Mrs. Meir read the text of the government’s official reply to the U.S. which reiterated that there would be no withdrawal from occupied Arab territories until a peace treaty embodying “secure, recognized and agreed boundaries” is consummated. The Israeli reply stressed the negotiating aspects of the American peace plan and mentioned the cease-fire element only briefly, saying that “Israel’s position in favor of a cease-fire on the basis of reciprocity on all fronts remains unchanged.” It committed Israel “in due time, to designate a representative to discussions to be held under Ambassador (Gunnar V.) Jarring (with Egypt and Jordan) according to such procedure and at such place and time as he will recommend.” Mrs. Meir pledged that Israel will participate in these discussions “without any prior conditions.” The Prime Minister addressed the Knesset only hours after the Gahal faction resigned from her cabinet in protest against acceptance of the U.S. plan. She spoke after the Knesset defeated by a vote of 64-5 a motion of no confidence filed by the small right-wing Free Center faction which also opposes the American plan.

In part, the text of the government’s acceptance of the plan followed almost word for word a statement that Secretary Rogers asked Israel, Egypt and Jordan to subscribe to, which would be in the form of a report from Ambassador Jarring to United Nations Secretary General U Thant. Mr. Rogers made that request in his June 19 letter to President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The Israeli reply agreed that the talks to be held under Dr. Jarring’s auspices “shall be held within the framework of the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution number 242 (of Nov. 22, 1967) on the basis of the expression of readiness by the parties to carry out that resolution in all its elements.” The reply went on to confirm that the object of the talks should be “an agreed and binding contractual peace agreement between the parties which will ensure a termination by Egypt, Jordan and Israel of all claims or states of belligerency and to respect and to acknowledge the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of each other and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” The Israeli reply stated further that each party would be responsible for preventing hostile acts from within its territory against the other. It said that “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict to secure, recognized and agreed boundaries (are) to be determined in the peace agreements.”

MRS. MEIR DEFENDS ACCEPTANCE ON BASIS OF U.S. ADMINISTRATION PROMISES TO AID ISRAEL

Mrs. Meir defended her government’s position in accepting the U.S. proposal. She cited statements by President Nixon, Secretary Rogers, Assistant Secretary of State Sisco and Dr. Henry Kissinger, the President’s advisor on national security affairs, which set forth basic U.S. policy in the Mideast “including the obligation undertaken by the U.S. to grant aid to Israel in all that concerns maintenance of her security and the balance of forces in the region, particularly in the light of the growth of the Soviet involvement and the flow of Soviet arms to Egypt.” Mrs. Meir made it clear that acceptance of the U.S. plan implied no change in her government’s basic position on vital security matters. She noted that Israel has publicly declared that “by virtue of her right to secure borders, defensible borders, she will not return to the frontiers of June 4, 1967 which lays the State open to the temptation of aggressors and on which on various fronts lends the aggressor decisive advantages.” She said further that Israel stands firm on the principle that implementation of Resolution 242 will begin only after agreement has been reached on all issues.

“In our talks with the political sectors concerned,” Mrs. Meir said, “we have repeatedly made it clear that paragraph 11 of the UN Security Council resolution concerning the granting to the (Palestinian) refugees of a free choice between returning to Israel or the receipt of compensation or rehabilitation is irreconcilable with Israel’s existence, security and character.” Mrs. Meir’s remarks were obviously intended to rebut opponents of her government’s position and re-assure others that acceptance of the American initiative in no way compromised Israel’s security or rights. But Menachem Beigin, leader of the Herut wing of Gahal sharply questioned the Prime Minister’s assurances. Taking the Knesset floor as an opposition leader for the first time in three years, Mr. Beigin denounced the Rogers plan in the same bitter terms that he used in last night’s debate that ended in Gahal’s withdrawal from the cabinet. He claimed that Israel had acquiesced to a plan which, at best would leave it with borders only slightly different from those that existed on the eve of the June, 1967 war. President Nixon’s assurances, he said, could not diminish the gravity of the undertaking “to accept a withdrawal which we had never accepted before.” Mr. Beigin repeated his earlier charge that the Rogers plan was drawn up by the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the exclusion of Israel. He compared it to the “Munich dictate” that resulted in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia before World War II.

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