Israel Prepared to Withdraw from Canal if Knesset Approves Move

Premier Golda Meir said today that her government was prepared to pull back Israeli forces from the Suez Canal, provided such a move was approved by the Knesset, but was not prepared to permit Egyptian troops to occupy the evacuated zone and would not resume talks on an interim agreement before the United States meets several Israeli conditions, including an undertaking to resume the supply of Phantom jets.

Addressing a Press Club luncheon here, Mrs. Meir said these points were made clear in discussions with the US. She did not name the American officials with whom the discussions were held but it appeared from the context of her remarks that she was referring to her talk last week with US Ambassador Walworth Barbour in which Foreign Minister Abba Eban participated.

Foreign Ministry sources said today that Israel has not yet received the “clarification” of the US position which it asked for through Barbour. Mrs. Meir pointedly rejected the term “interim agreement” for a deal to reopen the Suez Canal. In her view, “interim agreement” implied something binding on an overall settlement. She said she would prefer calling it a “special agreement” so it is clear that it stands by itself.

DIFFERS WITH US ON PRINCIPLE

Mrs. Meir said the Americans themselves were not sure that the terms of a Suez agreement would be kept by the Egyptians and told her that in the event of an Egyptian violation. Israeli forces could easily reoccupy the zone they evacuated.

“Of course we can do it,” Mrs. Meir said, “Fifty or 750 Egyptian soldiers on this side of the canal do not mean much. There were 100,000 Egyptians in Sinai during the Six-Day War and they were routed. But it is a question of the price Israel has to pay, mainly in terms of human lives.”

She said her differences with the Americans were not over how many Egyptians would be permitted to cross the canal but over the principle that any should be allowed to cross. She added that if there was a danger that an agreement would be violated there was no point in having one.

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