WASHINGTON (Jan. 21)
Key U.S. Senators said today after meeting for two hours with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger at the White House that the United States has made “no secret agreements” with Israel or Egypt in bringing them to agree on separating their military forces along the Suez Canal and in the Sinai peninsula. Majority leader Mike Mansfield (D.Mont.) and Foreign Relations Committee chairman J. William Fulbright (D. Ark.) in exclusive interviews with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency immediately after the meeting said that, in Mansfield’s laconic statement. “There are no secret agreements.” Fulbright, who like Mansfield has steadfastly opposed American aid to Israel, said that the United States served as “an intermediary” and that it would do so “whenever we can be of constructive assistance.” (See separate story.)
Minority leader Hugh Scott (R.Pa.) told newsmen that “no secret guarantees” were “mentioned” at the White House meeting and “I don’t believe they exist.” He described the “eight or nine agreements” disclosed publicly by U.S. sources only late yesterday as “various answers given to each party” by Kissinger in the course of his intercession with Egypt and Israel to obtain the military disengagement. “Each one has a feeling of security first” Scott observed from Kissinger’s briefing to the Congressional leaders about his trip in the presence of President Nixon and Vice-President Gerald Ford.
Sen. Strom Thurmond (R.S.C.), ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, replied under questioning from JTA that there should be “no fears” of U.S. “intervention.” He said Kissinger “just acted as a mediator” and that the United States is “not imposing” conditions on any country. The “agreements” became known only yesterday to American newsmen while they were on their way back to Washington in Kissinger’s plane. They reported that a high official in the Kissinger group said there were eight or nine secret “understandings” that Kissinger had reached with both Israeli and Egyptian officials. Earlier the Kissinger group had insisted that the only “agreements” reached were those directly pertaining to disengagement and the thinning out of forces in the belts established east of Suez and to the west of the Sinai passes.
Kissinger himself, in an allusion to the “understandings” or “agreements” told the newsmen accompanying him on his travels that the United States is “trusted by both sides to represent their point of view accurately.” A spokesman for the Kissinger group denied that “any tricky business” was involved in these “understandings” some of which reportedly were in writing. He said intervention by Kissinger was essential to bring about an accord on disengagement. Most of the understandings, he said, were sought by Israel including a continued pledge of U.S. support.
The substance of these understandings were not disclosed either by the Kissinger group to news-men or by the Senate and House leaders after their meeting with Kissinger. Aides to Kissinger, how-ever, stressed that they did not include any departures from previous U.S. policy or involve any formal U.S. commitments to either Egypt or Israel. This much was corroborated by the Senators who were willing to discuss them. The Jerusalem Post, however, said that the United States would exercise its veto should the Security Council ever vote, against Israel’s wishes, to remove the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from the buffer zone between the Egyptian and Israeli lines under the disengagement agreement. Kissinger also was reported to have received a pledge from Egypt that it would restore the Suez Canal and the canal side towns and that it would no longer pose a blockade threat in the straits of Bab el Mandeb.
But neither Scott nor any of the other Senators mentioned the reported veto pledge to Israel or the Egyptian promise to rebuild a civilian economy along the Suez. Both the veto and the civilian development are factors known to be ardently desired by Israeli officials as security measures. Scott specifically mentioned the Bab el Mandeb blockade, however. He said that it would “no longer be enforced” once the agreements are signed. This left the impression that the blockade continues and that the disengagement by itself will not result in it being lifted.