JERUSALEM (Oct. 7)
Premier Golda Meir said today that US Secretary of State William P. Rogers has rendered his pursuit of an interim settlement to reopen the Suez Canal more difficult by his General Assembly speech Monday which Israel considers an unmistakable shift toward the Egyptian position. In a statement issued here shortly after midnight in reply to questions from news media, Mrs. Meir said that Rogers’ speech and his subsequent conversation with Foreign Minister Abba Eban were still under study. But she made it clear that her government was highly displeased with Rogers’ remarks.
“We had hoped that the Secretary of State would continue in his efforts to convince Egyptian leaders of the value of an agreement towards opening the canal as a self-sustaining settlement without binding it to conditions and deliberations connected with the overall settlement,” Mrs. Meir declared. “Unfortunately, he gave Egypt the opportunity to interpret his remarks as a confirmation of their position–tying an agreement on the opening of the canal to an Israeli commitment to implement their version of the Security Council resolution.”
The Israeli leader took issue with Rogers’ speech on three salient points–an Egyptian troop crossing of the Suez Canal, the duration of the cease-fire and guarantees that the terms of an interim settlement contain no commitments bearing on an eventual overall peace settlement. Mrs. Meir noted that Israel had stated that “under certain conditions we would be prepared to submit to the Knesset for its approval a certain withdrawal of Israeli forces from the canal line. But one of the main conditions is that no Egyptian forces would cross to the east bank of the canal.
US CAN SERVE AS POSITIVE FACTOR
“Contrary to Israel’s position,” Mrs. Meir continued, “President Sadat declared repeatedly that Egyptian forces will cross the canal. The Secretary of State indeed admitted that Israel and Egypt differed on this point. However, he said there were prospects of a compromise. As far as we know, Egypt has not altered her stand. Under the circumstances, these remarks of the Secretary of State arouse concern since they are liable to give Egyptian leaders false hopes that Israel is expected to agree to a crossing of Egyptian forces to the east bank of the canal whereas Israel’s opposition is in fact still firm.”
Focusing on the cease-fire, Mrs. Meir declared: “While pointing out that a cease-fire of short duration was unrealistic, he (Rogers) deemed it right for some reason to state that a commitment to an unlimited cease-fire was unworkable within the framework of an interim agreement. One can hardly say that with such statements Rogers did a good service to the prospects for an interim settlement. Egypt’s rulers can easily find support in his statements for their stubborn objection to the demand for an unlimited cease-fire.”
On the matter of future commitments, Mrs. Meir said, “From the day the issue was raised, we stressed that the agreement for the opening of the canal was not to be linked to any commitments regarding additional phases of withdrawal prior to peace. The demand for such advance commitments brought about the standstill of the Jarring talks.” She stated further that “We value the initiative of Mr. Rogers who was instrumental in achieving a cease-fire. However, he erred greatly in several views he expressed in his last address. I am afraid that in the process of making such statements Mr. Rogers made it more difficult for himself to offer the good services he had intended.” Mrs. Meir said that Israel is convinced that the US could serve as a positive factor in achieving the desired settlement. “Our talks with the US government on this issue are still in full force and in the course of these talks we will carry on in our efforts to clarify our position to the US.” she stated.