Galili: No Cabinet-level Committee Drafting Israeli Terms for Canal Reopening

Israel Galili, a Minister-Without-Portfolio close to Premier Golda Meir denied today that he heads a Cabinet-level committee drafting Israeli terms for reopening the Suez Canal. Galili insisted that, contrary to press reports, no such committee exists. But reports persisted today that the government is waiting for an opinion by defense experts as to conditions that would permit the waterway to be reopened without jeopardizing Israel’s military position in the Sinai peninsula. Informed sources said those conditions would be the basis of a counter-proposal by Israel to Egyptian President Anwer Sedat’s offer to reopen the canal if Israeli forces were withdrawn from its banks and Egyptian troops allowed to enter the evacuated area, Sadat’s terms were categorically rejected by Premier Meir in her speech to the opening session of the Israel Labor Party convention yesterday. Nevertheless, sources said that Israel has specifically promised the United States government an early reply to the latter’s proposal that it consider an “interim solution” for the time being in lieu of a final peace settlement.

(Sen. J. William Fulbright delivered a stinging criticism of Israel yesterday accusing it of resorting to “Communist-baiting humbugery” in order to “manipulate” U.S. policy in the Mideast. The Arkansas Democrat, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, maintained that Israel and the U.S. have different conceptions of American interests in the region. The over-riding American interest, he told a Yale University student forum in New Haven, was to avoid another Mideast war that could lead to a Soviet-American confrontation. In contrast, Israel has “an essentially cold-war conception” that as “the bation of democracy in the Middle East” she is “defending American interests by holding the line against a surging tide of Communist imperialism.”) Informed sources said Cabinet members differed on conditions for an interim arrangement that would permit Egypt to reopen the Suez Canal. They said Defense Minister Moshe Dayan insisted on a formal armistice or termination of belligerency status by Egypt as a condition for a limited Israeli troop withdrawal. Some of his colleagues believe that is not realistic and would be satisfied with a formal extension of the present de facto cease-fire.

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