JERUSALEM (Feb. 16)
Opinion was expressed in political circles today that Israel may have no alternative but to agree to parallel talks with the Arabs on boundary questions and on the basic question of peace. Hitherto Israel has insisted that a firm commitment to peace by the Arabs must precede any substantive negotiations on territorial matters. The situation is believed to have been altered by the recent letters submitted by United Nations mediator Gunnar V. Jarring to Israel and Egypt. Officially Israel has been silent on the latest Jarring move. News media have reported however that the Government view is that Jarring exceeded the scope of his Security Council mandate to promote a peace settlement and that the “proposals” he advanced were unacceptable to Israel. (According to reports from Cairo today, the Egyptian Government has sent a “positive” reply to the latest Jarring note. Jarring was said to have questioned Egypt and Israel about their terms for a settlement and to have raised the prospect of Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-June, 1907 borders.) Differences of opinion were reported among Cabinet ministers as to how Israel should react to the Jarring move. Some Ministers, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan among them, allegedly believe the Government should tell Egypt flatly that Israel will never return to the boundaries that existed on June 4, 1967, the eve of the Six-Day War.
A majority of the Cabinet however was said to advocate a non-committal stance while Israel awaits Cairo’s reply to Its latest note, conveyed by Jarring over a week ago. This note demands a specific answer from Egypt as to whether its stated readiness to make peace with and recognize the sovereignty of the “countries of the region” includes Israel. The Dayan forces are said to believe that Egypt should be in formed of Israel’s uncompromising stand on the border issue before it drafts its reply to the question of its peace intentions. Sources here said today that in view of the strong United States backing of the latest Jarring move, Israel will have no alternative but to discuss the matters raised by Jarring, apparently including territorial matters. But fear was expressed in some circles that Israel would be thereby forced in to a position without room for maneuvering and would have to “lay all of its cards on the table” without bargaining. Political circles were awaiting a report from Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Yosef Tekoah. He was reportedly summoned by Jarring to receive an Egyptian note allegedly delivered to the mediator during the last few days. It was not known here whether the note is a reply to Israel’s queries or whether it was Cairo’s response to Jarring’s latest moves.