LONDON (Nov. 12)
Israel’s Premier Golda Meir said today that she was “optimistic” about the cease-fire agreement her country has signed with Egypt, that she hoped a peace conference would “take place soon” and that she had “no reason to suspect that (U.S. Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger has made any kind of arrangements behind our back.” Mrs. Meir appeared in top form as she addressed a bail room crowded with media representatives here early this morning and spent a full hour answering countless questions under the glare of television lights. She held her press conference after the conclusion of a meeting of the Socialist International Executive devoted to the Middle East situation which had convened here expressly at her request. It was attended by representatives of 21 nations, including eight Prime Ministers. She described the gathering as “a frank discussion between friends” and said she was “happier now than I was before it took place.”
Premier Meir gave succinate replies to questions that ranged from the cease-fire to international morality. On the cease-fire, she said: “We are prepared to implement it in every part and with great care. We expect the other side to do likewise, and in particular in regard to prisoners of war.” She said Israel was “very distressed about the attitude of Syria to the POW issue. Syria has a very, very bad record. The Red Cross has not been allowed to visit our POWs in Syria. We have found some of our POWs shot through the head. We don’t know the fate of those who have been taken prisoner by the Syrians.” On the techniques of peace-making, Mrs. Meir said: “There will be United Nations auspices, and the U.S. and USSR will help bring the two sides together. But the actual negotiations will have to be conducted between the parties concerned.”
On relations with Russia, the Israeli Premier said: “We did not break off relations….If Russia wants to re-establish diplomatic relations with us, we would be very happy to respond.” She noted that Russia was “very close” to the Arab states “while America, our close friend, is now also friendly with the Arabs….In this sense, the idea of having Americans and Russians among the peacekeeping force is not exactly fair.” On the issues of Jerusalem and a Palestinian state, Mrs. Meir reiterated her government’s adamant line. “Jerusalem will have to stay united.” she said, “but we are ready to make arrangements with the various religious bodies, Moslem and Christian, so that they can administer their holy places themselves. This situation prevails now as a matter of fact….” As for a Palestinian state, “There is room only for two states between the Mediterranean and Iraq-Israel and Jordan. Arrangements for the Palestinians are a matter between the Palestinians and Jordan,” she said.
But on a general peace conference, Mrs. Meir stressed, “We are coming to peace talks without any prior conditions, and we will talk to any Arab state that turns up. Everything will be negotiable, though of course we have our own point of view about things.” She said that on the immediate cease fire issues Israel “is prepared for a realistic and sensible re-alignment of the forces on both sides,” but observed that “nobody knows where the lines were” on Oct. 22. Mrs. Meir was bitter over the acquiescence of Western European countries to Arab oil boycott pressures as expressed in the anti-Israel resolution adopted by the nine Common Market countries in Brussels last week. “It looks as if the free world is prepared to permit six men (Arab oil leaders) to destroy the European economic community, to poison relations between America and Western Europe, and to dictate to proud and great countries how to behave,” she said.
The Socialist International conference issued no statements and did not adopt resolutions. But it was summed up last night by Harold Wilson, leader of the Labor opposition and former Prime Minister. He said four-fifths of the time was taken up with Mideast peace prospects and that the Middle East declaration of the nine Common Market countries came in for a great deal of comment. In reply to a question by the JTA, he said that oil was mentioned but the question of sharing oil resources between all of the nine EEC nations was not on the agenda. Premier Meir met today with Prime Minister Edward Heath for 75 minutes at No. 10 Downing St. at Heath’s invitation. A British spokesman described the meeting later as “friendly and useful.” A spokesman for the Israel Embassy agreed with this characterization and added that Anglo-Israel relations did not change as a result of the meeting. Mrs. Meir responded to the invitation as a matter of courtesy and not in any spirit of expectation, the Embassy spokesman said.