JERUSALEM (Feb. 17)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban declared in the Knesset today that Israel would never return to the borders that existed between the 1949 armistice and the 1967 Six-Day War because they “were neither recognized borders nor defensible ones.” He said the crucial question in the Middle East now is when and how Egypt will reply to Israel’s demand to know whether it is ready to conclude a contractual peace treaty. Egypt’s sincerity will be tested by whether they give serious study to Israel’s proposals for parallel discussions of peace and of plans to re-open the Suez Canal, Eban said. The Foreign Minister addressed the Knesset in reply to motions submitted by three opposition factions questioning the Government on United Nations mediator Gunnar V. Jarring’s latest moves. The issue was Jarring’s letter to Israel last week which reportedly posed the question of withdrawal to its pre-June, 1967 borders. Eban however maintained the Government’s silence on the Jarring move and refused to refer to it even indirectly before the Knesset. The motions were submitted by Gahal, the State List and the pro-Moscow Rakach Communists. The latter was rejected by the Knesset and the other two were referred for further deliberation to the foreign affairs and security committee. Eban declared that Israel had the same right as any other country to recognized and defensible borders.
He said Israel stands by its position that its future borders must be drawn up within the framework of a peace treaty that eliminates all forms of warfare from the region. Until then, he said, Israel will continue to hold the present cease-fire lines. Eban referred to recent statements by Egyptian leaders, including President Anwar Sadat’s interview published in Newsweek magazine this week. “Our ears are open to any echo, any whisper from Egypt, but peace is not achieved through interviews,” the Foreign Minister said. He observed that one interview is replied to by another interview and furthermore, experience has shown that after every positive statement made for publication, there come contradictions and reservations that annul the positive ideas. Eban was contemptuous of a statement attributed yesterday to Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed H. el-Zayyat, who reportedly said his country was ready to accept Israeli sovereignty if the Israelis stopped admitting Jewish immigrants from all over the world. (Dr. Zayyat today told a JTA reporter at the UN that the statement attributed to him was “nonsense.” See separate story.) Eban said statements such as Dr. Zayyat’s remove the whole issue from the realm of serious discussion. He said it was as if Israel were to demand that Egypt practice birth control.