UNITED NATIONS, N. Y (Jan. 7)
Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring’s arrival in Israel tomorrow morning is seen by observers here as a sign of stepped-up Israeli interest in the success of the peace negotiations under his auspices. Foreign Minister Abba Eban had invited Dr. Jarring, in a message delivered Dec, 30, “to meet you in Jerusalem at your earliest convenience and my intention is to survey the situation, to acquaint you with the basic views of my government and to discuss steps necessary to ensure the fulfillment of your mission for the promotion of agreement on the establishment of peace.” That invitation was sent after Israel decided on Dec. 28 to rejoin the peace talks. Dr. Jarring, who met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad in Moscow in late December and has not been in Israel for 18 months, will be conferring in Jerusalem with Premier Golda Meir and Eban. Israel’s United Nations ambassador, Yosef Tekoah, will accompany Dr. Jarring on his flight. The UN negotiator plans to return here by Sunday night. An official announcement issued today by a UN spokesman said that Dr. Jarring “has accepted the invitation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel as conveyed in the latter’s message of Dec. 30.” The announcement gave no hint of what Dr. Jarring would be discussing, provided the time of the ambassador’s arrival in and departure from Israel and noted that Dr. Jarring will be accompanied to Israel by Ian Berendsen who is the principal political advisor of the UN Middle East Mission.
When the peace talks began last August, Israel sought to have them take place as close to the Middle East as possible–perhaps at Nicosia, Cyprus–although there was no formal invitation then to Dr. Jarring to visit Israel. The Meir administration–which does not like New York as a negotiating site because, as Eban stated last month, it is not “part of the Middle East”–was reported today to have renewed her request to Dr. Jarring to relocate the talks in the Mideast. Such a shift, however, would require the approval of Egypt and Jordan, which is unlikely. Dr. Jarring’s departure for Israel appears to indicate he is seriously intent on preventing the peace talks from faltering now as they did last August, when Israel left them the day after they began in protest against Egyptian missile violations in the Suez Canal zone. Since Secretary General Thant appointed Dr. Jarring as his personal Mideast representative on Nov. 23, 1967, there have been only five days of formal peace talks–last Aug, 25 and 26 and now Jan. 5-7 of this year. Last March, Dr. Jarring was here for what Under Secretary Ralph J. Bunche called “routine” discussions with “interested parties” and what Tekoah, one of those parties, called “exploratory talks.”
Dr. Jarring’s Israeli visit also appears to indicate that Israel–increasingly aware of the Feb. 5 cease-fire deadline and of Egypt’s threats not to extend the truce without a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories–is especially serious about wanting the talks to succeed and to have them conducted at the highest feasible level. Israel has always wanted the talks to be held at the Foreign Minister level, which Egypt and Jordan have never formally acquiesced to. It is believed that Israel wants, in that context, to have Dr. Jarring meet as soon as possible with her two most prominent diplomats–Mrs. Meir and Eban. The contention in some quarters that Dr. Jarring has decided to bow to Israeli pressure as the price for continuing the peace talks was discounted by knowledgeable sources here as “observation on the level of trivia.” The mediator does not submit easily to pressure, the sources noted, adding that it was highly unlikely for Israel to have agreed secretly with him to return to the talks despite the Egyptian violations in exchange for a brief visit to Jerusalem by him.
The Jarring trip is thus seen here as more of a gesture to Israel than a substantive development. A British spokesman, for instance, emphasized that the most important thing was for the Swedish diplomat to “make substantive progress soon” and that such a goal would be enhanced if he obtained “authoritative expositions of the views of the parties at an early stage in his talks.” The spokesman added that “In the case of Israel, this could best be done in Jerusalem,” and “we are glad that he (Jarring) accepted it (the Israeli invitation).” Egypt’s UN envoy, Dr. Mohamed H, El-Zayyat, said yesterday that the Jarring trip would be objectionable only if it represented an Israeli “delaying tactic.” An American spokesman commented today that “Our attitude is that Jarring is the determiner of his own procedures.” (In Washington, a State Department spokesman labeled as false a published report that the U. S. had not known in advance of Israel’s invitation to Dr. Jarring.) (In Ottawa, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mitchell Sharp made the general observation that all nations should “support–Jarring in his continuing negotiating efforts.” He refrained, however, from commenting directly on Dr. Jarring’s trip saying he could not comment on the ambassador’s day-to-day movements.) Various sources said flatly that Dr. Jarring’s visit to Israel could only be a positive step.