JERUSALEM (Jul. 26)
Premier Golda Meir called on President Anwar Sadat of Egypt today to “make a joint supreme effort” with Israel “to arrive at an agreed solution to all the outstanding problems.” She repeated Israel’s readiness to accept Egypt’s suggestion for a “special arrangement,” to reopen the Suez Canal. “Such a settlement,” she said, “could make a real contribution toward an overall agreed peace settlement.”
Mrs. Meir made her appeal for peace negotiations in the course of a lengthy speech to the Knesset this morning in which she stated her government’s evaluation of recent developments in Egypt, particularly President Sadat’s ouster of Soviet military advisors.
(In Washington today, State Department spokesman Charles Bray refused to comment on Premier Meir’s Knesset statement including her offer to negotiate an interim Suez agreement. He declined comment on all other aspects of the Middle East situation as well and refused to say whether US Mideast policy has changed since Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ 1969 speech in which he spoke of minor territorial adjustments.)
“It is still premature to make a reliable evaluation of the reasons, scope and result” of the Soviet withdrawal. Mrs. Meir said. However, she said that on the basis of the information her government has, the pull-out did not mean the end of Russia’s strategic presence in Egypt. She estimated the Russian presence in Egypt up to the time of the pull-out at over 7000 advisors, experts and instructors with Egypt’s armed forces and close to 10,000 additional personnel manning jet fighter squadrons and anti-aircraft missile batteries. The experts and advisors were ordered to leave but not the instructors, Mrs. Meir said. She said the demand for evacuation also affected Soviet operational units integrated into the Egyptian air defense system and that “perhaps also the interceptor squadrons have been handed over to the Egyptians,”
Mrs. Meir said Israel would have to remain on guard against the possible consequences of the reduction of the Soviet presence in Egypt. If it is true that the Russians restrained the Egyptians from their more hostile impulses then this “contributed to saving Egypt from a further defeat and prevented a dangerous deterioration in this region,” the Premier said. However, she went on, Israel must be alert lest continued Egyptian frustration lead to a resumption of shooting. “Who can guarantee that they (the Egyptians) will not try to find a solution or a way out of confusion, frustration and internal strife by resuming fighting?” she asked. “The doctrine of preparation for a military decision still holds sway, hundreds of thousands of men are still under arms and tension still exists,” Mrs. Meir said. She noted that the reason behind Sadat’s ouster of the Russians was Moscow’s refusal to approve and support Egypt’s more aggressive demands.
Mrs. Meir did not dwell at length on Sadat’s bellicose speech to the Arab Socialist Union in Cairo Monday. Though she read it “from beginning to end,” Mrs. Meir said. it contained no hint of how Sadat intended to terminate the situation of “no-war-no-peace” that he found intolerable. The Israeli Premier suggested that he terminate it by making peace directly with Israel because “no foreign country or factor can solve for us, or instead of us, the problems which stand between us….Negotion for peace is not a badge of surrender or humiliation….It is a supreme revelation of sovereignty, of national honor and international responsibility,” she said.
The Premier said the current situation and recent developments vindicated Israel’s policy of the past two years–its decision to agree to the cease-fire of Aug. 1970 and its rejection of UN mediator Gunnar Jarring’s initiative of Feb. 1971. “Boldness and political responsibility have been rewarded,” Mrs. Meir said. She declared that Israel was stronger than ever and stressed her country’s strengthened ties with the US and Israel’s gratitude to the US government for its decision to resume the supply of Phantom jets.
“The United States and its President deserve our full appreciation and gratitude for this,” she said. She cited Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ recent observation that the Middle East is the only remaining area in the world where the process of negotiation hasn’t been tried. “This political approach, which found expression in the words of the US Secretary of State, is shared by an ever increasing number of nations around the world,” Mrs. Meir declared.