JERUSALEM (Aug. 5)
Undisclosed guarantees that Israel won from the United States less than two weeks ago were the decisive factor in the government’s acceptance of the U.S. Mideast peace initiative which it originally viewed with serious misgivings, government spokesmen indicated in the Knesset last night. Deputy Premier Yigal Allon and Foreign Minister Abba Eban staunchly defended the government’s position during a nine hour debate following a political statement by Premier Golda Meir in which she read the text of Israel’s official reply to the United States. The debate culminated in a 66-28 vote in favor of the government. The opposition spear headed by Gahal leader Menachem Beigin, charged that the government had approved by a large majority the same Rogers plan which it had unanimously rejected only six weeks ago. Mr. Allon replied. “A number of interesting things happened in this period. First of all, the Prime Minister received a message from President Nixon… but we are not free to quote it here…If we could make it public, the opposition would be in an unbearable position.”
Mr. Allon was apparently referring to a message from the President delivered on July 24 by U.S. Ambassador Walworth Barbour to Mrs. Meir. The message is believed to have stated firmly that the U.S. would not support demands for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories before an agreement has been reached with the Arabs on “a just and lasting peace.” Israel also sought from the U.S., and appears to have gotten a pledge, to maintain an agreed flow of new military aid–planes, anti-missile electronic devices and other weapons. Mrs. Meir referred repeatedly in her address to “clarifications” received from the U.S. as recently as last week. Mr. Allon said that the government had asked for clarifications precisely because it did not content itself with the original assurances from the U.S. “We asked for elucidations. We received them and they satisfied us.” he said. Mr. Allon added that another “change” that occurred which had a bearing on Israel’s position was “the acceptance by at least two Arab states (Egypt and Jordan) of the American initiative in principle.” He said there may be an argument about future boundaries, ”but how can we decide in advance that the American initiative is doomed to failure? Rejecting it on that basis would mean virtually provoking all the bitterness of an argument with the United States. We cannot appear to the world as an obstacle to peace.”
EBAN EMPHASIZES ISRAEL TOTALLY OPPOSED TO RESTORATION OF PRE-1967 WAR BORDERS
Mr. Eban summed up the Knesset debate. He accused the opposition of “over-dramatizing” the issues. “Their objections resemble a bubble filled with air that bursts when you prick it,” he said. He discounted fears that the Rogers plan would return Israel to the pre-June 5, 1967 borders. Mr. Eban repeated in English a statement he made before the United Nations that “the restoration of the borders of June 4, 1967 is opposed by Israel totally, implacably and unreservedly.” That, he declared, was and remains Israel’s policy. The vote in the Knesset was decisive and indicated that Premier Meir’s coalition partners would have no difficulty governing despite the defection of Gahal. Israel’s second largest party. Apart from Gahal, only the Free Center and the State List, two splinter factions, voted against the government. But the government was supported by the pro-Israel Maki Communists and the New Left Haolam Hazeh. Among the nine abstainers were two ultra-Orthodox factions. Agudat Israel and Poalei Agudat Israel, two members of the National Religious Party and one member of the State List. A counter motion submitted jointly by Gahal, the Free Center and the State List was defeated 63-30. That motion did not mention the Rogers plan but called on the government to act on the basis of its own guidelines.
When the Knesset session began. Mr. Begin and the five other Gahal ministers took their usual seats at the table reserved for cabinet members although they had already officially resigned. On a pre-arranged signal–when Mrs. Meir first mentioned the word “withdrawal”–they rose and took seats in the section of the Knesset chamber reserved for opposition members. Two of the Gahal ministers. Leo Dultzin who held no portfolio and Gen. Ezer Weizman, Minister of Transport, are not members of the Knesset. Mr. Dultzin is expected to return to the post of treasurer of the Jewish Agency which he relinquished when he was appointed to the cabinet. Gen. Weizman, a former Air Force commander, is reportedly accepting a position with private industry. The four ministerial posts left vacant by Gahal’s departure are expected to be distributed among present cabinet members. It is believed unlikely that new ministers will be appointed except one from the ranks of the National Religious Party to replace the deceased Moshe Shapiro who was Minister of Interior. It is believed however that the NRP may lose the Interior Ministry and receive one of the portfolios vacated by Gahal. The ministries of transport, commerce and industry and posts and development are being administered by the Prime Minister for the time being.