JERUSALEM (Aug. 25)
In a special session this evening of the Knesset, which had been recalled from recess. Foreign Minister Abba Eban defended the government’s decision to go through with the peace talks under the auspices of Dr. Gunnar V. Jarring in spite of Egyptian violations of the standstill cease-fire. Warding off heavy criticism from the Gahal, State List and Free Center Parties, Mr. Eban assured the Knesset that the government was fully aware of problems of security, but implied that he could disclose details only in committee and not in the plenary. “I have to restrict myself,” he said, to quoting from the Aug. 4 Knesset address of Premier Golda Meir, in which she said, Mr. Eban noted, that “Israel has grounds for the assumption that in case the cease-fire is not extended the country will not emerge militarily weaker.” Mr. Eban said “Israel would have gained nothing by delaying the appointment of her representative to the Jarring talks,” adding “The road to peace is not easy.” Gahal leader Menachem Beigin, former Minister-Without-Portfolio, opened the attack on Mr. Eban and the government by admitting that he shared responsibility for the unanimous cabinet vote in favor of the 90-day cease-fire.
“The United States misled us,” Mr. Beigin declared. “We would never have agreed but for the definite assurance of President Nixon that the Egyptians would not be permitted to move their rocket emplacements. The Americans have not kept their promise.” Gahal quit the coalition over its acceptance of the U.S. peace initiative. Free Center leader Shmuel Tamir proposed that Israel refuse to extend the cease-fire. State List member Isser Harel, a former intelligence chief, charged the U.S. with trying to break Israel’s will power. The U.S., he said, “is not so naive as not to know about the missile movements.” At Mr. Eban’s suggestion, the issue was referred to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. (According to sources in Washington, the U.S. is seeking to extend the cease-fire period to improve chances for reaching an accord. American officials said Dr. Jarring’s mission would be more difficult if he had to carry it out “under the gun” of an inflexible deadline.) On another point, Mr. Eban rejected the Middle East peace plan of U.S. Sen. J. W. Fulbright because “a return to the borders of June 4, 1967, and the absorption of Arab refugees would exceed Israel’s capacity and would be incompatible with her security.” Sen. Fulbright over the weekend recommended those moves in connection with United Nations enforcement of a peace settlement and U.S. guarantees of Israel’s security. Mr. Eban’s remarks constituted the government’s first official reaction to the plan.