JERUSALEM (Dec. 25)
The Cabinet met for two hours this morning to hear a full report from Foreign Minister Abba Eban on the first phase of the Geneva peace conference. The Cabinet formally appointed Gens. Mordechai Gur and Dov Sion as Israel’s delegates to the disengagement talks with Egypt which are expected to be resumed in Geneva this week. They will fly to Geneva tomorrow. Gur. a former Air Force commander, has been Israeli military attache in the U.S. and Canada. Cabinet sources said there was no discussion of new ideas on the disengagement of forces along the Suez Canal, a subject the Cabinet was reported to have discussed at length at its regular meeting Sunday. No new proposals are expected to emanate from Israel, at least not until after next Monday’s elections.
No details of Eban’s report to the Cabinet were forthcoming today. But his remarks to reporters when he landed at Lod Airport early yesterday reflected an optimistic mood and an appreciation of the historic nature of the Arab-Israeli peace talks that began last Friday which he said was shared by all participants. According to the Foreign Minister, the first real result of the conference was its agreement on procedural matters and form. While it was agreed that sessions on the foreign ministerial level, such as the opening session, will be held from time to time during the course of negotiations, the main work of the peace conference will be carried out by sub-committees, each dealing with a specific set of subjects. The first of these groups is the Israeli-Egyptian military committee which will try each an agreement on disengagement–a solution that eluded the negotiators at Kilometer 101.
Eban also stressed the importance of the consensus principle reached at Geneva which he said, applies to all questions, even the smallest marginal procedural problems. In effect, this means that the conference participants have agreed to proceed on an informal consensus basis rather than a majority and minority approach to decisions. Asked by reporters yesterday if there was a chance to reach agreement on disengagement within a few days, Eban said Israel had no objections to a speedy solution if its security requirements were met. But he said he didn’t expect this to happen because of the complexity of the problem.
Eban acknowledged that the Jordanian Foreign Minister Said el-Rifai, had raised the question of mutual disengagement of forces along the lines of the Israeli-Egyptian talks. But he did not ask for any immediate discussion and therefore it is not necessary to reach any decision at this stage, Eban said. The matter of disengagement between Israel and Jordan has already raised problems within the Cabinet. The National Religious Party wanted to know why the subject came up at all at the early stages of the peace conference. Eban and Premier Golda Meir replied that the matter was not current and that “the main focus of all, including us, is still on the Israeli-Egyptian front” (See separate story)
Questioned about the Syrian POW issue, Eban said yesterday that he had held talks in Geneva with Red Cross officials and had also written to the U.S. and Soviet co-chairmen on the problem. He admitted that the issue was still deadlocked but insisted there was no cause for despair and the situation might change. Asked about the possibility of renewed diplomatic relations between Israel and the Soviet Union, Eban, who met for 80 minutes Friday with the Soviet Foreign Minister replied. “You had better ask Gromyko.”