TEL AVIV (May. 6)
Declaring that “the search for peace will be the central theme” of his talks with Israeli leaders, Secretary of State William P. Rogers arrived here today on the last leg of a week-long Mideast tour that has taken him to four Arab capitals. In a prepared statement which he read from a podium at Lydda Airport with Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban standing at his side, Rogers declared that now was the most opportune moment for peace in the region. “My talks in the Arab capitals have only reaffirmed my conviction that there has never been and may not be for a long time to come a better opportunity than exists today to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he asserted. Rogers added that the move toward peace would be “in pursuance of the Security Council’s resolution that… in all of its parts remains the cornerstone of American policy as set forth in my speech of Dec. 9, 1969, and in President Nixon’s policy speech of this year.” Rogers also told the newsmen and dignitaries who greeted him at the airport that safeguarding Israel’s security was one of the foundations of American Middle East policy. Rogers said that the core” of his talks with Premier Golda Meir and other Israeli leaders would be a review of “all possibilities of renewing progress toward an overall settlement” and “to explore and exchange specific and concrete ideas on the question of the interim Suez agreement.”
Rogers stated that if Israel and Egypt could reach such an agreement “it would not only contribute to the climate of the continuation of the cease-fire… but will also facilitate the talks conducted under the auspices of Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring.” He observed that while there are risks in agreeing to peace, “there are greater risks in failing to do so.” Israel, he said, “has experienced and met the challenge of war. I am confident Israel would equally meet the challenge of making peace.” Rogers said he expected his talks in Israel, on this, the first visit here by a Secretary of State in 18 years, “to be frank and friendly as they always are between us.” He said the message from President Nixon he would convey to Mrs. Meir was that “if we work together for peace, history will judge us well.” Rogers left immediately for Jerusalem, where he conferred for half an hour with former Premier David Ben-Gurion in the King David Hotel. Also present were Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco and Dr. Yaacov Herzog, Director General of the Israeli Premier’s office. The meeting was conducted under strict secrecy. Rogers sought the meeting at the last minute today to discuss with Ben-Gurion the Israeli’s recent article in the Saturday Review expressing territorial views similar to Rogers’. Ben-Gurion is also known to favor total Israeli evacuation from the Sinai Peninsula.
Rogers and Sisco, their wives and their party of 40 attended a memorial ceremony for the victims of the Nazis at the Yad Vashem, the building dedicated to martyrs and heroes in Jerusalem. Rogers laid a wreath in the memorial tent. The chairman of the Yad Vashem, Knesset member Gideon Hausner, conducted the Americans on a tour of the permanent exhibit of Holocaust documents and relics, Rogers recalled that after World War II he was a member of a Senate committee that induced Germany to retry SS officer Isle Koch, who was given life imprisonment. Rogers said he was greatly impressed by the Yad Vashem. “It is important,” he said, “that we should continuously remind ourselves of these horrors so that they should never recur.” This evening, Rogers met with Mrs. Meir and Eban. Tomorrow he addresses the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and again meets with Mrs. Meir in Tel Aviv. According to a press conference statement by Robert McCloskey, State Department press officer here, Rogers and Mrs. Meir had “a good adnimated exchange of views” and also had agreed not to provide any details of their talks to the press. The press officer also said that Rogers had summarized to Mrs. Meir the impressions he gained in his lightning tour earlier in the week of Arab capitals. McCloskey said Rogers had not brought any new proposals for his meetings with Israeli leaders.