JERUSALEM (Jul. 30)
Foreign Minister Abba Eban declared on an army radio interview yesterday that he thought the United States had been surprised by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s ouster of Soviet advisors from Egypt. Eban rejected suggestions that the ouster was part of a prearranged agreement between the US and the Soviet Union.
Eban said also that reports of renewed diplomatic ties between the US and Iraq proved Israel’s long-held contention that it was possible for the US to build ties with the Arab world while continuing to support Israel. The conclusion, he said, was clear: “Those who say that tension between the United States and the Arab countries is not caused by America’s support of Israel are right.”
He said he had seen no change in US policy toward Israel since the Soviet pullout from Egypt began, adding that while there was always “a theoretical possibility that the United States may change its policy, in practice I do not understand why it would want to change its policy.”
(A Washington Post correspondent reported from Cairo yesterday that the Soviet Union, “apparently determined to minimize the loss of face it has already suffered and to protect its other important interests in the Middle East, has mounted its military retreat from Egypt with a speed and thoroughness that has surprised experienced diplomatic observers” in Cairo. Correspondent Jim Hoagland quoted a Western observer in Cairo as asserting that “there has not been one sign of the Russians attempting to contravene President Sadat’s decision to send all Russian military advisors home, or of “their wanting to get involved in what could be messy negotiations over who and what can stay. Right now it appears that virtually everything is going,” Hoagland reported.
(He also quoted “well-informed sources” to the effect that “for the past two weeks eight Soviet military transport planes, each filled with more than 100 Russian advisors have been leaving Egypt almost daily” and that “there has been movement of Soviet personnel from Alexandria, where the Russians have used naval facilities,” Hoagland added that “analysts now expect a major reduction” of Soviet personnel at Alexandria, “as Egyptians take over much of that facility.”)
Eban stressed that the final scope of the Soviet withdrawal from Egypt was still unclear. Asked whether he thought the Soviets would “punish” Sadat by pulling out more airplanes that Sadat had stipulated or by denying him supplies, Eban intimated this was a possibility. He declared that “the dynamics of departure” might result in leaving Sadat with less than he had bargained for. He also said he would not like to think that Sadat’s rejection of Prime Minister Golda Meir’s appeal for prompt negotiations was Sadat’s last word on the subject. He said Egypt “has several options for communication, such as has occurred between the two Germanies, between India and Pakistan and between North and South Korea.” He added the opinion that a “certain lessening of extremism or wrath” had been noted in Sadat’s latest speech in Alexandria on Thursday when he rejected Mrs. Meir’s bid for talks.