JERUSALEM (Nov. 18)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan proposed last night that Israel and Egypt re-negotiate their Aug. 7 cease-fire agreement on the basis of a mutual disengagement on both sides of the Suez Canal. Gen. Dayan made the proposal at a closed meeting of the Labor Alignment’s Knesset faction from which the press and even ministerial aids were excluded. The substance of his remarks was leaked to newsmen later by highly reliable sources. Gen. Dayan said that the new cease-fire agreement should supersede the Aug. 7 agreement which was extended on Nov. 6 for another 90-day period and should go into effect before the extension expires on Feb. 5,1971. He said the new accord should be based on physical arrangements of a permanent character but declined to spell out what those arrangements might be. Knowledgeable sources believe Gen. Dayan has in mind a mutual reduction of forces along the Suez Canal front. Two months ago, the Defense Minister reportedly suggested the creation of a demilitarized zone of 10-20 miles in width on both sides of the waterway.
The report was subsequently denied but has persisted. Some press reports here last week said Gen. Dayan intended to present such a plan to high Nixon administration officials when he visits the United States next month. Such a development could lead to re-opening the Suez Canal. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Sept. 9 that a proposal by Gen. Dayan to re-negotiate the cease-fire was under consideration on the highest government levels and that it might be taken up in Washington by Premier Golda Meir who was at that time preparing to visit the U.S. Nothing further was heard about the plan publicly until last night’s meeting. Gen. Dayan reportedly told the Labor MKs that a new situation has arisen in the Arab world since the death of Egypt’s President Nasser and the collapse of the so-called Arab Eastern command against Israel as a result of the Jordanian civil war last September. Gen. Dayan reportedly stated his view that the Egyptians now prefer a political settlement to war. Asked why he advocated a return to the Jarring peace talks, he reportedly replied that the negotiations would avert a clash with the Soviet Union whereas if they were not resumed Israel faced the danger of a confrontation with the Russians.