Report Sisco Warns Cease-fire May Be Endangered if Israel Remains Inflexible

Informed sources reported here today that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco has warned Premier Golda Meir and Foreign Minister Abba Eban that if Israel does not show enough “flexibility” to make an agreement possible with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the 11-month old Egyptian-Israel cease-fire may be endangered. Sisco, who is in Israel for a week-long official visit, conferred Friday with Eban and then for four hours with Mrs. Meir and senior Israeli officials at the Prime Minister’s office. The American diplomat will meet again tomorrow with Mrs. Meir to continue the discussions. According to semi-official sources, the main purpose of his visit is to explore “intensively” prospects for a long-debated interim agreement to re-open the Suez Canal. Strict secrecy was maintained over the initial Friday talks. An official bulletin from the Prime Minister’s office said only that the talks were conducted with the “frankness and friendship characteristic of the relations between the two countries and covered a broad range of matters of current and common interest.”

There have been consistent reports, since Sisco’s visit was initially announced late in July that one of the “matters of current and common interest” was Israel’s repeated but unfulfilled requests for agreement by the Nixon Administration to sell Israel more Phantom F-4 jets. An aide later told newsmen that there were no clashes of opinion at the initial talks but that was all he would say. A spokesman at the American Embassy, which is host to the visiting diplomat, referred newsmen to the Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman who also declined to comment. According to the sources, Sisco cited information from reports of Donald Bergus, the chief American diplomat resident in Cairo, and Michael Sterner, head of the State Department desk for Egypt, who conferred last month on a special mission. Sisco reportedly told the Israeli officials that Bergus and Sterner had concluded that Sadat was still “eager” to reach some sort of agreement with Israel on an interim pact from which he could gain political advantage.

However, Israeli officials said there had been no change in Sadat’s demands for such a pact. These include Israeli troop withdrawal to a distance 90 miles from the Suez Canal and formal recognition by Israel that such a withdrawal would be a first step toward withdrawal to the pre-Six-Day war armistice lines, both of which remain completely unacceptable to Israel. It was understood that Sisco did not raise the issue of a general settlement under the “plan” proposed by Secretary of State William P. Rogers, aimed at restoration of the 1967 borders with “insubstantial” changes. The sources said that the Nixon Administration apparently had shelved that “plan” at least for the time being. The participants at the Friday meetings included Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, and Walworth Barbour, the American ambassador to Israel. Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan are expected to participate in upcoming meetings with Sisco who, it was unofficially reported, may also meet with Gen. Chaim Barlev, Israel’s chief of staff, and Gen, Aharon Yariv, chief of military intelligence.

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