JERUSALEM (Feb. 28)
Government circles made no attempt today to conceal their disappointment with President Nixon’s statement on the Middle East in his second annual foreign policy message to Congress last week. The disturbing aspects were his reiterated backing of the Rogers Plan calling for no substantial changes from Israel’s pre-June, 1967 boundaries and the stress he placed on a solution of the Palestine refugee problem. On the positive side, from Israel’s point of view, was Nixon’s firm statement that peace can be achieved only by agreement between the parties to the conflict and his rejection of a settlement imposed by the Big Powers. Israel also regarded as favorable Nixon’s assertion that while the Big Powers were prepared to guarantee a peace settlement, they would not intrude until such a settlement is achieved. Nixon, in his address to Congress, reiterated that the Middle East continues to be the “most dangerous” trouble spot in the world. Israel mean while will wait for Egypt’s response to its latest note which was in the hands of United Nations mediator Gunnar V. Jarring last Friday. The Cabinet met today and heard a report from Foreign Minister Abba Eban. No details were released.
It was disclosed that the note contains no references to future boundaries but makes it clear that Israel will not return to the borders that existed before the June, 1967 Six-Day War. Addressing a group of British settlers in Tel Aviv today, Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the gist of the Israeli note was that Israel is prepared to discuss all points at issue with Egypt as long as Cairo is ready to discuss peace with Israel but that there could be no pre-conditions to such discussions. Eban hinted that the movement toward peace was being hindered by the indirect nature of the Jarring talks. Conflicting assessments of the Nixon speech and future relations with the United States emerged today. Deputy Premier Yigal Allon intimated in a radio interview yesterday that the government does not feel that Israel has been “let down” by the U.S. But Foreign Ministry circles took the view that Nixon has abandoned his policy of all-out support of Israel which he adopted six months ago, while the late Egyptian. President Nasser was alive. The circles said that Nixon is anxious to improve American relations with Cairo and believes this to be possible under the Sadat regime even if there is no chance of ousting Soviet influence. One observer said today, “Don’t be surprised if you hear talk of negotiations for an American loan to Egypt in a few months.”
EBAN: ISRAEL CAN SOON EXPECT U.S. PRESSURE; ALLON DISCLOSES HIS BOUNDARY PLAN
Allon agreed that the U.S. wants to “get its foot in the door” of Cairo but argued that this was possible only with a strong Israel. This being the case he said. it was still possible to persuade Nixon to abandon the Rogers Plan. Foreign Ministry circles said however that Nixon’s speech indicated that he stands squarely behind the Rogers Plan, even knowing that the Israel government rejects it categorically. They said that in the negotiations which preceded resumption of the Jarring talks in January, the U.S. promised not to raise the Rogers Plan on its own initiative. But by reiterating his insistence on an Israeli withdrawal with only “insubstantial” changes from the old boundaries, Nixon has in fact re-introduced the Rogers Plan. Eban reportedly said privately yesterday that American pressure on Israel can be expected soon. He said what the U.S. wanted at this stage was not a concession by Israel but a map. Secretary Rogers was said to have told Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin in Washington last Friday that an appropriate counter-move by Israel to Egypt’s explicit offer to make peace would be a map stating Israel’s minimum territorial claims. Israel appears determined to resist this. Government sources conceded that several committees are working on the “border question” but insisted that no maps have been drafted. However, observers here said it was not certain how long Israel could hold out against Washington’s demands for specific boundary proposals to Egypt.
Government sources said Israel was not opposed to a solution of the Palestine refugee problem but was perturbed by Nixon’s stress on it in his foreign policy message and feared that the Arab concept of a solution might somehow filter into the U.S. approach. In his radio interview yesterday, Allon referred for the first time in many months to the so-called Allon Plan for Israel’s future boundaries with Jordan. he disclosed for the first times that his plan also deals with the Golan Heights and the Sinai. In Allon’s view, Israel must retain the Sharm el-Sheikh strong point at the southern tip of Sinai to control navigation to and from Eilat and must have a connecting land strip along the western shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. These boundaries are considered to be more or less the same envisaged by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan although Allon presented the plan in his own name only. Some observers said that he might have been launching a trial balloon at the government’s request to test reaction in Washington without committing Israel. The Israel government, no less than the Egyptian government, is aware that only the U.S. is in a position to exert any influence on Israel’s actions, one source said today.