JERUSALEM (Oct. 5)
No official comment was available here today on US Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ speech yesterday before the United Nations General Assembly. But authoritative Israeli circles are predicting a continuing erosion of the American position on an interim Suez settlement and mounting pressure on Israel for further concessions. The drift rather than the substance of Rogers’ remarks has strengthened the view in these circles that the US is shifting perceptibly toward the Egyptian position which is that Egyptian troops must occupy areas east of the canal evacuated by Israel and that an interim agreement be considered a prelude to total Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai.
The text of Rogers’ speech is likely to be discussed at the highest government levels as soon as the government receives Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s report on his private talk with Rogers following yesterday’s Assembly session. According to unconfirmed reports reaching here, Rogers told Eban that Israel’s long-standing request for the resumption of Phantom jet deliveries on a two-a-month basis was still “under study.” In diplomatic parlance that amounted to a rebuff and strengthened the feeling here that the US is withholding Phantoms and other military equipment to extract further concessions from Israel.
Government leaders are awaiting the speech of Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad who will address the General Assembly tomorrow. At a background briefing today, Foreign Ministry officials said the central issue remains that Israel still seeks an interim Suez settlement but has no intention of entering into a discussion of “numbers” with the US, such as how many miles Israel should withdraw, how many Egyptians should be allowed across the canal and for how many months the cease-fire should be extended. Officials said that if negotiations with the Egyptians are to be held they must cover three cardinal points; Free navigation of the waterway; problems of the cease-fire; and strategic questions that might arise from reopening the canal. These points must be resolved in negotiations between the two sides. The Americans cannot solve them, the officials said.
WILL NOT YIELD MORE CONCESSIONS
There was no comment on reports from other sources that the US had offered Israel security assurances to encourage concessions for an interim settlement. There was no indication what form the assurances would take but observers said they might include deliveries of Phantom jets and written undertakings that would make the US the guarantor of a Suez agreement against any violations. Israeli officials apparently are opposed most vehemently to the idea that the US should advance its own plan for an interim settlement instead of trying to promote agreement between the two parties.
Specifically, the Israelis feel that Rogers envisages a compromise under which Egyptian troops would be allowed to cross the canal. Rogers made no such proposal in his speech yesterday. He did say that “The question of an Egyptian military presence east of the canal is one on which the parties hold opposite views. But here too the possibilities of some compromise are not negative.” At another point in his speech, Rogers said “The reopening and operation of the Suez Canal would require Egyptian personnel east of the canal.” Israel is amenable to permitting Egyptian technicians and other civilians to cross the canal to restore it to use. According to some sources, the US is now trying to convince Israel to permit the Egyptians to land a “symbolic” military force on the east bank of the waterway. A figure of 750 men has been mentioned.
Israeli officials also take issue with Rogers’ contention that an indefinite cease-fire is unrealistic. Israel opposes any arrangement that carried the threat of renewed shooting. Israel in fact views an interim agreement mainly as a measure to tranquilize the Suez area. Rogers, on the other hand, appears to see it primarily as paving the way for further Israeli withdrawals whether or not Israeli security is affected, circles here said. A Cabinet minister told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Israel will not yield more concessions without a very serious struggle, even against the US.