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Bayh: Israeli Withdrawal to Pre-1967 Borders Would Strip Her of Security

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Sen. Birch Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, recently returned from a trip to Israel, said last night that the withdrawal of Israel to its pre-war 1967 borders, as advocated by Secretary of State William P. Rogers, in return for the kinds of “vague international guarantees” that proved useless in 1956 and again in 1967 would serve “neither the interests of the U.S., Israel or even of the Arab nations. Addressing the Greater New York United Jewish Appeal’s 32nd annual Lawyer’s Division Dinner, Bayh said that pressuring Israel to withdraw could “strip that nation of the physical security it gained at such enormous cost” without providing any equivalent in return. “We must not publicly pressure Israel to rely on promises that can be forgotten or ignored at any time,” he declared, adding that this could lead to a “hardening of positions” and a “postponement of the peace that I am convinced the Arabs need as badly as Israel.” The Senator warned that Rogers’ plan for an international peace-keeping force in the Sinai and at Sharm el-Shelkh would not be in the U.S. interest since such a force could create “another international flash point like Berlin” which would only add to, not subtract from, the possibilities of great power friction and conflict. He said that as the result of a “comprehensive review” of the Middle Eastern situation and from his talks with Israeli officials on the diplomatic, military and economic situation, he was convinced that “Israel is anxious to journey toward peace. But it wants to know precisely where that journey will take her.”

To help bring about such a peace, he added, he was suggesting a six point plan for the U.S.: to seize every opportunity to de-escalate the Middle East arms race, but, if no such opportunity arises, to meet any expansion of Egyptian-Soviet military capability and to maintain the military balance in that area; to resist any tendency to slow down or halt military supplies to Israel to push it towards accepting a negotiating position it might not otherwise be willing to accept; to make clear to the Egyptians that there are “realistic and attractive” alternatives to their current policy; to emphasize to Israeli and Arab the importance of stating positions and reactions to diplomatic proposals in ways calculated to emphasize the ultimate objective of peace; to move with caution towards accepting the Egyptian proposal to reopen the Suez Canal in the absence of an overall Egyptian-Israeli agreement including a binding commitment about Israeli use of the canal; and, to aim at gaining the substance, not the appearance of peace by refusing to support–and certainly refuse to urge–any partial or temporary arrangement.

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