WASHINGTON (Jun. 30)
Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin accepted assurances from Secretary of State William P. Rogers yesterday that the so-called Bergus “phantom memo” in Cairo did not reflect the position of the U.S. Government and was not meant to reflect the position of the Israeli Government. Gen. Rabin told newsmen that he was “satisfied” after emerging from an hour-long meeting with Rogers, which he had requested, and which was attended by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Joseph J. Sisco. The questionable memo was from Donald C. Bergus, the senior American diplomatic representative in Cairo, to the Egyptian Government. It proposed an Israeli withdrawal from half of the Sinai peninsula. Egyptian troop crossings of the Suez Canal and an international force to police a United Nations buffer zone. The U.S. informed the Egyptian Government promptly that the memo did not represent the American position. Israeli officials have not been shown a copy of the memo which was brought to light last week by a Washington columnist.
State Department spokesman Charles Bray told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency yesterday that the memo affair did not “pall” U.S. efforts or role in trying to get an interim agreement to reopen the Suez Canal. He declined to comment on statements from informed quarters that the Bergus memo will spur the formalizing of a U.S. position within one or two weeks. At today’s press briefing however, Bray advised newsmen to “treat with skepticism” reports that the U.S. would be setting down on paper its own proposals for a Suez interim settlement. Bray added that the U.S. was “focussing on its own point of view” and will be developing and formulating some kind of proposals. He did not envision this as a change in the U.S. role but simply a consequence of reflections after the Bergus memo episode. Diplomatic sources here expect the memo affair to leave its mark on the credibility of the U.S. in the canal negotiations, but not to effect the substance of the talks themselves. They say Israel will be more careful in the future and probably will not be easily persuaded to an American viewpoint, but that the friendship between the two countries “is strong enough to even withstand such a thing.”