JERUSALEM (Feb. 3)
Official circles here appeared today to be satisfied with the course taken by the Jarring talks so far, with Secretary General U Thant’s statement released at the United Nations yesterday urging both sides to maintain the cease-fire and his findings that “there has been some progress” in the talks under the auspices of his special envoy. But the causes of Israeli satisfaction appear to have had the opposite effect on Egypt. Diplomatic circles here reported today a “distinct impression” that Egypt was trying to wreck the Jarring talks because they were taking on the aspects of genuine negotiations, something the Egyptians had not intended. The consensus of opinion here is that Egypt will not start shooting when the current cease-fire extension expires on Friday although Cairo is not expected to announce its continued observance of the truce. But Israelis are not certain that de facto observance will hold more than a few weeks, especially if the Cairo Government, frustrated by its inability to turn the Jarring talks to its advantage, yields to trigger-happy Army officers who want to renew the war.
As the Israelis see it, Dr. Jarring was expected by Egypt to act like a “glorified registry clerk,” simply arranging a timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied Arab territories, But despite the restrictions imposed on the Jarring talks, such as holding them at UN headquarters in New York and Keeping them so far on the ambassadorial level, they are beginning to look more and more like negotiations and this irks the Egyptians, the Israeli sources said. Cairo protested to Jarring for allowing Israel to submit questionnaires seeking definitions of Arab positions, So far the Egyptian Government has never referred to any of the questions raised by Israel and Dr. Jarring is reported to hold the view that Egypt is deliberately making his work more difficult, the Israeli circles said.
Thant’s statement indicated that whatever progress had been made in the Jarring talks was limited to the “definition of their positions” by both sides. However, it received favorable comment here. Israelis said the Secretary General was under heavy pressure from Egypt and the Soviet Union, supported by France, not to make any reference to progress in his report. The Egyptians felt that such a reference would dash their hopes for a Security Council meeting that would involve the Big Four in the cease-fire extension, hopefully forcing Israel to yield on a withdrawal timetable as the price for a continued truce. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was “quite natural that the UN Secretary General should have made his appeal in the interests of peace and in order to give the Jarring talks a full chance.” Premier Golda Meir told a Labor Alignment Knesset faction yesterday that Israel would honor the cease-fire as long as the other side did the same. Nevertheless, Israeli soldiers in the Suez zone have been ordered to wear their flack jackets and steel helmets from now on. An unusual movement of forces along the Syrian line on the Golan Heights was reported tonight by the Israeli Army broadcast services. Syrians were said to be seen moving troops and vehicles along the line, presumably in anticipation of the end of the Israeli-Egyptian-Jordanian cease-fire at midnight Thursday, Cairo time. Troop concentrations were reported in several sections of the line.