JERUSALEM (Mar. 1)
A highly placed Foreign Ministry source stated categorically today that a Big Power peace keeping force in the Middle East would never work because it was unthinkable that Soviet troops would fire on Arabs violating a peace agreement or that American troops would fire on Israelis. Referring to the United States’ insistence that border changes must be insubstantial, a phrase reiterated last week by President Nixon in his “State of the World” message, the source said that insubstantial is not necessarily the same as unimportant. The source noted that he would easily imagine changes in the Golan Heights or Sinai that might fit the definition of insubstantial while still being important for Israel’s security. According to the source, Israel’s difficulties with Egypt could be ironed out “if we had face-to-face talks with the Egyptians” but even though it was hard to see how peace could be achieved without direct contacts, Israel was not making this point a condition for its continuation with the Jarring talks.
The source was most emphatic on Big Power guarantees which Israel insists cannot be a substitute for secure and defensible borders. “The Big Powers would be ineffective if called to act,” the source said. “I cannot even think of Soviet troops firing on an Arab soldier in order to vindicate Israel, nor could I imagine France with her oil interests ordering her soldiers to open fire on Arab troops and the same applies to Britain who has told us of her interests in the Arab world.” The source said that it he were “an Arab I would raise the argument that United States soldiers would not fire on Israelis.” The effectiveness of a peace-keeping force composed of the smaller powers was also discounted. The source noted that countries like Finland and Yugoslavia would have to make major decisions as to whether to leave their troops in the combat area. He recalled that Yugoslavia pulled its troops out after Nasser’s threat on the eve of the Six-Day War. The source disclosed that Egypt was still adhering to “vague formulas” in its replies to United Nations mediator Gunnar V. Jarring on the critical question of free navigation for Israel. These formulas were the same that excluded Israel from the Suez Canal for more than 20 years. Similarly, he said, Egypt has offered Israel navigation through the Straits of Tiran “in accordance with the principles of international law,” a formulation that has been used against Israel in the past.
The source said that the “ideal” peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors should follow the pattern of the Franco-German settlement after World War II which not only established diplomatic relations but created a complex network of trade and cultural relations and mutually interlocking economic interests that made war unthinkable today. He also expressed optimism regarding the outcome of the current differences between Israel and the U.S., and said that he was certain the U.S. would come to realize that where Israel’s security was concerned it was Israel’s view that should carry the greater weight.