JERUSALEM (Nov. 25)
The Government announced officially today that Israel would agree in principle to participate in a Middle East peace conference proposed by U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, to open in Geneva Dec. 18. The Cabinet, at its regular weekly session, issued this statement and added the government would wait for an official invitation before giving its final consent to joining the talks. It was understood that the final decision to go to Geneva will depend on what form the peace talks would take and what nations would participate in them. Today’s announcement was understood to be the first time the Dec. 18 date was mentioned as the opening date for a peace conference-But it was understood by the Cabinet that no substantive negotiations would take place before the elections. A Cabinet source said today that the proposed participants were Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria and the two sponsors, the U.S. and Soviet Union, with UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim attending as an observer. That line-up, as envisioned by the U.S., was apparently conveyed to Foreign Minister Abba Eban at his meeting with Kissinger in Washington last week.
(In Algiers, where Arab leaders began arriving this weekend for a summit conference starting tomorrow, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi stated that Egypt will “of course attend the talks.” He told newsmen that Egypt has “always said it is seeking a peaceful settlement of the Middle East crisis.” There was no immediate indication as to the reactions by Jordan and Syria to Israel’s announcement.)
Returning from the U.S. last Friday, Eban said the Nixon Administration and Kissinger were aware that Israel will hold its general elections Dec. 31. He said they were also aware that the present Israeli government cannot make any commitments before the elections. But the U.S. is of the opinion that opening peace negotiations in mid-Dec. had advantages that many influence the international atmosphere, Eban said. The Foreign Minister said Israel should not go to the peace table with undue haste but neither should it drag its feet. Too long a time should not elapse between the cease-fire and a peace conference, he said.
Eban indicated that Israel would not enter negotiations with Syria until the latter returns Israeli POWs. Deputy Premier Yigal Allon hinted recently that Israel would expect Russia to resume diplomatic relations with Israel before it could claim any role at the mideast peace talks. Other Israeli spokesmen have ruled out participation by Britain and France. Today’s Cabinet meeting was attended by Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar and by Gen. Aharon Yariv, the chief Israeli negotiator in the cease-fire talks with Egypt. The Cabinet was briefed by Eban and by Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir who returned today from a Latin American visit.