JERUSALEM (Dec. 10)
The Israeli government has decided that it will not enter into peace negotiations with Syria unless and until Damascus produces a list of Israeli prisoners of war it holds and allows the Red Cross to visit them in accordance with the requirements of the Geneva Convention. That decision was submitted to the Knesset this afternoon in the form of a motion presented by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan on the government’s behalf. The motion also stated that once Syria complied, Israel would insist that the first item on the agenda of talks with Syria should be a POW exchange.
The Knesset voted by majority to send the motion to committee. It rejected a motion by the Likud opposition faction for a full dress debate on the subject of POWs and their treatment.
Dayan, who returned from a brief visit to the U.S. this morning, said the BOW exchange Itself was not a precondition to peace talks with Syria only the lists and visits were. He said he knew that U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, with whom he met Friday in Washington would raise the Issue when he visits Damascus next week. Dayan said the Syrians murdered Israeli POWs in 42 attested cases, some of them long after the fighting ended and some of them wounded prisoner. Dayan claimed there were 24 attested cases of POWs murdered by the Egyptians. (Israel’s first complaint, filed with the Red Cross yesterday, mentioned 28 cases.)
On his return from the U.S. this morning, however, Dayan told newsmen at Lod Airport, “I do not think that we should not go to Geneva because of these crimes committed by the Egyptians.” On the other hand, he said, the situation surrounding Israeli POWs in Syrian hands overshadows the Geneva conference. “For us it is a question of principles but the less we talk about it the better,” Dayan said.
NO PRESSURE BY WASHINGTON
The Defense Minister said there was no pressure being put on Israel and that he heard nothing in Washington of any conditions Israel had to comply with before the Geneva conference. “The Americans understand what we urgently need in respect to arms, Dayan said, (In Washington, Israel was reported today as seeking U.S. arms estimated at costing between $3 -3.5 billion. Informed sources persisted in saying the Soviet government was both heavily resupplying weapons to Egypt, Syria and Iraq and refusing to agree with the United States on limiting arms to the Middle East.)
Dayan said his discussions on that matter with Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger and his aides over the weekend were very detailed, “When the Russians continue to supply the Arabs with modern and sophisticated arms, we should have the right to answer it. I am satisfied with my talks in America. The Americans understand what we need and reveal sympathy toward our requests.” Dayan said. He refused, however, to elaborate on the results of his talks with American officials.
Asked about the presence of Russian observers with the UN forces on the Israeli-Egyptian cease-fire lines and whether that presaged a further Soviet involvement in the region, Dayan replied that there are no Russian combat units here. “There are observers from Russia as there are from the U.S. Russian observers are here–and that’s a fact. I am not sure as to the future activity of the Russians.”