NEW YORK (Mar. 31)
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan displayed cautious optimism here last night over a peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Addressing 300 American Jewish leaders at a United Jewish Appeal dinner after a weekend of talks in Washington with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, Dayan said that never before in its 26 years of existence had Israel encountered “such a constructive attitude from the Arab people with regard to peace.” He said that Israel for its part was ready to “negotiate with everybody in the Middle East, including the Palestinians….God knows who they are,” but stressed that Israel had to remain militarily strong and indicated that it was asking the U.S. for more military equipment. He said he hoped “we will get what we want.”
The Defense Minister warned, however, that a difficult road lay ahead. He stressed that negotiating a disengagement agreement or even a cease-fire with Syria will be much more difficult than with Egypt. He played down the reported Egyptian violation of the disengagement accord–as he had earlier in the day to reporters in Washington–saying that with regard to disengagement, Israel had “no serious complaint” against Egypt.
Dayan did not disclose the substance of his talks with Kissinger–three hours Friday and 90 minutes Saturday–but hinted that progress was being made in connection with an Israeli-Syrian separation of forces. He observed that the Middle East “never had such a good mediator” as the Secretary whom he described as “very capable” and “dynamic.”
SYRIANS SEEM INTERESTED IN ACCORD
With regard to Syria. Dayan said that despite “the wide gap between the two basic positions” the Syrians seemed interested in an agreement. He said he based his belief on the fact that Damascus, knowing the Israeli position, nevertheless will send a representative to Washington to discuss negotiations. (A Syrian representative, so far unidentified, is expected to arrive in Washington April 11 for meetings with Kissinger, it was disclosed yesterday. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko is expected in the capital at the same time for talks that are expected to include the Middle East.)
Dayan said of an eventual accord with Syria that “It will not be a peace agreement. If we reach a real cease-fire, that will be enough.” He stressed that nobody could stop the Syrians from fighting but the Russians, not even the Americans. “Only the Russians can do it,” he said. He added that Israel, too, would have to convince the Syrians that it was “not worth fighting.” Dayan observed that this year will be the most important “for Israel and the Jewish people” with respect to peace talks. He noted that there are now four parties to any Mideast settlement–Israel, the Arab states, the U.S. and USSR. He said there was “some kind of coordination” between the two superpowers on the Middle East.
Dayan told the UJA audience that Israel recognized that the U.S. had other interests in the Middle East apart from keeping Israel alive. He listed those interests as the energy problem, relations with the Arab states and competition with the Soviet Union. He referred to the resumption of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Cairo as “a great achievement” but did not elaborate.
Dayan told the UJA leaders that he had come to the U.S. at this time for two reasons–to discuss an Israeli-Syrian disengagement process with Kissinger and to meet with the leadership of the American Jewish community. The Defense Minister presented Kissinger with Israeli disengagement proposals and a detailed map at the State Department Friday. Kissinger later described the proposals as essentially the same but “more elaborate” than Israel’s first proposals which he conveyed to Damascus last month.
KISSINGER-DAYAN TALKS ‘VERY CONSTRUCTIVE’
Meeting reporters after their final meeting Saturday, Dayan and Kissinger described their talks as “very constructive” and were hopeful that a disengagement accord would be reached with Syria. “We believe we have a useful basis,” Kissinger said. Dayan remarked, “I am really glad I came over here. Fighting we can do at home, but for peace we have to come to Washington and work through the Secretary.” Kissinger hinted that the U.S. initiative to bring about an Israeli-Syrian agreement would be undertaken through the medium of “proximity talks” in Washington rather than by “shuttle diplomacy” between Jerusalem and Damascus.
Kissinger indicated that Dayan would be in Washington again. Asked what specific bilateral issues were discussed, Kissinger replied, “assurance of regular return visits of the Defense Minister.” When a reporter asked Kissinger. “Are we ever going back to Geneva?” the original site for a Mideast peace conference, the Secretary replied. “We do not have a target date but we expect to.”
Dayan was particularly conciliatory toward the Egyptian government. Responding to questions, he said he did not know whether the Egyptians had removed “all the guns” that Israel charged had been illegally moved to the east bank of the Suez Canal in violation of the disengagement accord. “There is a dispute about it,” he said, and that “the way I interpret the agreement, it was not carried out.” He said the United Nations Emergency Force commander. Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, “has to check it out.” However. Dayan immediately added that “I am sure they (the Egyptians) did not introduce any offensive weapons” and that “I do not think Egypt is trying to violate the agreement. I think there was a difference of interpretation and it can be settled.”