WASHINGTON (Nov. 12)
The six-point Egyptian-Israeli agreement signed yesterday on the Cairo-Suez city road is seen here by political observers as initiated by Washington, dictated by Cairo with Moscow’s prompting, and accepted by Israel on American advice to appease Egypt on the immediate issues to get some kind of dialogue going. The best that can be said for the agreement, these sources indicated, is that essentially it is a test of Egyptian and Soviet intentions, A start had to come sometime of what they really want,” one said. The agreement favors Egypt nearly all the way. it was noted. In exchange for some 350 prisoners of war, which Israel rightly had declared should be a separate truce component under the Geneva Convention, Egypt gets 7800 POWs–a 22-1 ratio. In addition, Egypt will be allowed to resupply its trapped Third Army and thus physically recondition it for battle.
The trumpeting, especially from American sources, that Israel finally after 25 years is getting a signed agreement with Egypt face-to-face, is dismissed by political realists here as a symbol without real meaning. A similar act temporary field arrangements was made by field commanders of the opposing sides only a week ago albeit orally. Egypt controls, with Soviet support, the circumstances of the desired disengagement of forces. Washington, eager to regain primacy from Moscow along the Nile, wants desperately for Egypt to resume diplomatic relations. This was indicated when the Egyptian-American understanding was first announced in Washington and the word was for “an immediate” exchange of ambassadors. When it turned out that full diplomatic relations actually was only “in principle,” the State Department blandly told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the variation between “full” and “in principle” relationship is “a distinction without a difference.” Actually, of course, the symbolism is of major importance in diplomatic parlance and it signifies Egyptian control of the relationship.
The American flag does not fly “in principle” in Cairo. The U.S. “interests section” continues to exist under the Spanish emblem, the exchange of ambassadors notwithstanding. It appears Egypt still has something more to acquire from Washington before there is “full” relations. A much more important indication of Egyptian control is that the Egyptian blockade in the Red Sea, bottling up Eilat’s shipping, is not mentioned in the agreement. Not only does the blockade hamper Israeli oil needs but it is now seen as an Egyptian bargaining card to force the Israelis out of the entire Suez region, if not all Sinai. For diplomatic reasons, the State Department does not notice any blockade. “It was never formally announced as such by Egypt,” it says.
Nevertheless, pro-Israelis here see the agreement as an opportunity for a break-through in negotiations apart from the POW issue and the cease-fire crystallization hopes. “If the Egyptians cheat,” said one pro-Israeli source with reference to a possible link-up of Egypt’s Second and Third Armies despite the cease-fire, “there are options on both sides.” In the emphasis over the agreement here, several other factors have received little attention. One is that Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal, an anti Communist and regarded as pro-American and with tremendous U.S. private investments with his realm and his own in Wall Street, has delivered for the first time his congratulations to the Soviet government on the anniversary of its October Revolution.
This is variously interpreted here. Faisal may only be acknowledging his thanks for Moscow’s support to he Arab war machine. The gesture therefore may be only of minor importance. But if Riyad is acknowledging the “new realities” in the Middle East–that is the Soviet entrance in quest of primacy–Faisal is possibly posing a threat to Washington. He may be saying that he may invest much of his wealth in the Soviet Union–just like American capitalists already have done–and agitating for more, and in return get Soviet protection for his throne. Despite the incongruities of a Riyadh-Moscow friendship it is not impossible, given Soviet political cynicism. The USSR made a deal with the Nazis when it was convenient. Why not a suitable vehicle now on its penetration into the Middle East?
Another factor is that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, in his cyclonic diplomatic activities in the Middle East, has frequently consulted recently with Senator J.W. Fulbright. It is recognized that Kissinger had pledged sharing of diplomatic developments with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and this sharing is regarded as essential on all sides. Nevertheless, since Fulbright. the Committee chairman, is the current American political idol of the Soviet and Arab leaders, his avowed support of Kissinger’s Middle East goals lends credence to the feeling that the Secretary is aiming for a Middle East settlement close to Fulbright’s ideas.
These include a compromise on Golan Heights and Sharm el Sheikh and an internationalized Jerusalem. In essence, this spells a return of Israel to its pre-Six-Day War area within a guarantee of U.S. military support within a United Nations framework. The guarantee of course is suspect given the national revulsion to “another Vietnam” and Fulbright’s own strong opposition to U.S. troops going into the Middle East. He indicated this again by calling the Senate’s attention only the other day to the petitions he has been receiving against U.S. military involvement in the Middle East.