Special JTA Analysis Stakes in the Middle East

Foreign Ministry circles in Jerusalem reported that the meeting of Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban with Secretary of State William P. Rogers had shown how large the measure of agreement now is between Israel and the United States regarding the Middle East conflict. At the same time, reports from Cairo stated that President Sadat will pay another visit to Moscow this week–three weeks before President Nixon goes there. His purpose at the Kremlin is probably similar to that of Eban’s visit last week in Washington: to find out how far the Soviet Union is willing to go in supporting Egypt’s position on the conflict.

While other matters of global significance may take priority over the Middle East, most competent observers hold that this area too will feature prominently in the talks between Nixon and the Soviet leaders. This area is one in which the interests of the superpowers cannot be reconciled at present. The US wishes for peace so that it can re-establish its influence in the Arab world by the means at its disposal: economic and technical assistance. The Soviet Union wishes for a continuation of the conflict because the dependence of the Arabs on Soviet arms gives it the leverage it desires in the area.

However, both powers are apparently intent on avoiding a collision over the area. One of the means to do this is determining the limits of intervention: they can reach an understanding for each to refrain from acts that the other side would find intolerable. Each of them has the means of doing so, mainly by giving or withholding more arms.

There are signs that Egypt is not satisfied with the present Soviet attitude. Columnists and commentators in Egypt have said that the Russians refuse to supply more offensive weapons and arms of a more sophisticated nature. Sadat himself has hinted in his speeches that this is correct. The reason may be that the Soviets cannot afford to have Egypt lose another war; and they do not believe that Egypt can win it.

SATISFIED WITH MEETING IN WASHINGTON

Israeli sources on the other hand expressed themselves very satisfied with the meeting in Washington. It had been a complete reversal of the atmosphere prevailing six months ago when Eban last met Rogers after the Secretary of State presented six points of which at least three were objectionable to Israel: crossing of the Suez Canal by Egyptian forces, the distance of withdrawal and the consideration of the partial agreement to reopen the canal as a first stage toward a peace agreement, and general withdrawal.

This time the six points were not even brought up. There was agreement on three cardinal points: there will be no imposed solution in the Middle East; the balance of arms will be maintained; and the US will not give in to Soviet demands. Rogers added a point on which the US and Israel do not completely see eye to eye: he requested that King Hussein’s federation plan not be rejected as strongly by Israel as it had been.

Eban assured Rogers that henceforth Deputy Premier Yigal Allon’s concept would guide the government on this subject: Israel would not interfere in any question regarding the government of Jordan once the territorial problem had been solved. Allon himself will be in Washington at the beginning of May. By that time Nixon’s itinerary and agenda are expected to have been completed. However, no surprises are expected in Jerusalem.

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