Sisco: Interim Mideast Pact Still Possible, U.S. Acting As Mediator in Effort

Joseph J. Sisco. Assistant Secretary of State, believes that an interim Suez peace agreement can still be achieved despite Israeli and Egyptian differences because “both sides want such an agreement.” Sisco told 2,600 members of B’nai B’rith District 3 at the opening session of the group’s 119th annual convention last night that Egypt and Israel consider any interim Suez pact “a practical test for peace” and a first stop toward a permanent peace agreement. He added however, that “prospects for an overall peace settlement were not encouraging.” He stated that the U.S. government was acting as a mediator at the request of both parties, Sisco reassured the B’nai B’rith leaders that the U.S. stood firmly behind Israel on any agreement reached with the Arab states, again stressing the need for “direct negotiations between the parties regarding any final peace settlement.” Responding, Dr. William Wexler, international president of B’nai B’rith, expressed grave concern that the U.S. could not keep any such commitment “because our government is frightened to death, petrified at any confrontation with the Soviet Union,” despite the fact that both nations do not desire any such confrontation. Dr. Wexler, who is also the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said that in a showdown. “Israel would scream for arms,” and the U.S. “would equivocate and rationalize until it was too late.”

Referring directly to the proposed Suez agreement, Dr. Wexler said that if the Israelis pulled back from their side of the canal and the Egyptians moved in missiles and troops, like in the recent instance of the SAM 3′s, the U.S. would not act quickly enough. “When the time comes for action, our government will give up the State of Israel to gain time rather than face up to a director confrontation with the Soviet Union,” he declared. He praised President Nixon’s excellent record on behalf of Israel but said, “Hard facts remain and Israel should not pull back.” In his address, Sisco conceded that Israel and the U.S. have been caught off guard by the 15 year Egyptian-Soviet pact. He said, “I don’t know whether the treaty makes conditions for peace more difficult. The Soviet presence in Egypt is a reality.” He further observed that. “Both sides have put forth positive and difficult ideas” but he asserted that the U.S. was not applying pressure to one side or the other. “Both sides must make adjustments.” Sisco agreed to a request by Dr. Wexler that he meet Wednesday in the State Department with a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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