JERUSALEM (Jan. 31)
Israelis remained calm but with an underlying mood of tension today as the final week of the current Suez cease-fire began. The truce, which was extended for 90 days when it expired last Nov. 5, will terminate next Friday, Feb. 5. Cairo has declared that there would be no-further extension unless Israel acquiesced to certain political conditions which it regards as unacceptable. But most Israelis believe that Egypt will continue to observe the cease-fire on a de facto basis as long as the Jarring talks are in progress. Political sources here said that Ambassador Jarring may present a new report on his mission to United Nations Secretary General U Thant within the next few days. The sources said such a report obviously would be aimed at inducing the Egyptians to extend the truce and enabling them to do so without losing face. The sources said Jarring would probably state for the record that the renewed peace talks under his auspices have gotten off to a useful start.
(U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers said in Washington Friday that he was “convinced that the (Mideast) parties are on the verge of entering serious negotiations” and that he hoped the cease-fire would be extended beyond Feb. 5. Replying to a question at a press conference by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent, Rogers said the recent series of notes exchanged between Israel, Egypt and Jordan through Jarring indicated new “areas of agreement.” He cited as an example, Israel’s willingness to use the word “withdrawal” and the Arabs’ willingness to agree specifically to Israeli sovereignty.)
The flight of a Soviet-made Egyptian fighter-bomber over Israeli positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal yesterday was regarded here as another attempt by Cairo to wage a “war of nerves” against Israel. Israeli sources said it was also intended for home consumption, to back up the die-hard position of President Anwar Sadat on ending the cease-fire. The sources expressed hope that “good sense” would prevail in Cairo but warned that Egypt’s leaders could become the victims of their own sabre-rattling.
Political sources in Jerusalem told the JTA today that if the Egyptians resume shooting after Feb. 5, Israel will not permit them to wage their kind of warfare. Israel cannot afford a war of attrition and will inevitably turn it into an active war of movement, the sources said. They stressed however that Israel will not be the first to open fire and that Israeli forces might ignore minor incidents such as cross-canal sniping by the Egyptians. But Israel will respond with vigor to renewed artillery barrages or any signs that the Egyptians were attempting to cross the canal. Israeli military authorities have expressed confidence in the Army’s ability to withstand any Egyptian attack and, in fact, to carry the war across the canal to destroy Egyptian missile sites. They concede however that such a counter-thrust would cost heavy casualties and therefore Israel will go to great lengths to avoid a renewal of warfare.
The Israelis say the Egyptians are fully aware of the dangers facing them and will probably agree at the last minute to keep the cease-fire in effect though they will not announce a formal extension. On the other hand, sources pointed out, the Egyptians do not always act rationally “and it is against such a possibility that we have to be on guard.”