JERUSALEM (Dec. 21)
A senior official said today that Israel government policy was opposed to simultaneous negotiations for both an interim Suez Canal accord and an overall peace settlement. A suggestion that such tandem talks might be held by two separate teams was made by Deputy Premier Yigal Allon during his recent visit to Washington and was reiterated by Allon when he returned home last week.
The senior official, however, asserted that Allon had merely “thrown the idea into the air for discussion.” He said the Deputy Premier could not have raised the suggestion in his talks with U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers and other American officials because it was not in accord with Israeli government policy.
The official contended that simultaneous talks were not justified by either logic or practical considerations. He said the whole idea of interim talks evolved as a means to circumvent the obstacles in the path of overall peace negotiations. The main obstacle, he said, was Egypt’s insistence that Israel make a prior commitment to total withdrawal.
BEST PATH IS INTERIM AGREEMENT
If this obstacle could be overcome, there would be no need for an interim settlement, the official said. He added that from a practical point of view. simultaneous talks would be difficult to conduct because they would require constant contact between the two negotiating teams.
The official observed that while Israel was always ready for overall peace talks without preconditions, it believed that the best path toward peace lay in trying to reach an interim agreement, a course that was also favored by the United States and many European countries. Most disputes in recent years have been solved in stages and partial talks would fit into this pattern, he said.
Noting that recent contacts between Israeli ministers and top U.S. officials indicated that Washington was hoping for and expecting some diplomatic progress in the Middle East, the official stated: “They do not like a diplomatic vacuum. They want to see some kind of contacts or negotiations, though they are not making specific suggestions at this stage.” He said the U.S. was aware that the Soviet Union will continue to raise the Middle East question at every possible international forum and in Big Power contacts, but Washington felt that with the Russians out of Egypt and the cease-fire intact, the time was ripe for a new effort.