U.S. Policy of Power Balance Continues by Joseph Polakoff

Syria’s Soviet-supported offensive on the Golan Heights, renewed Arab terrorism in its worst form as exemplified by the slaughter of 18 people in Kiryat Shemona, and the attitudes publicly and privately expressed by Soviet leaders towards U.S. policy on separating Arab-Israeli forces have caused the State Department to take a new look at the Middle East.

Officials are discreetly saying that Israel is acting with “great restraint” towards the “provocations” from its Arab neighbors. Therefore, one source observed, “we are tilting towards Israel again.”

With the Secretary of State going to the Middle East again in less than two weeks, the source added, “This is no time to be un-evenhanded. The equilibrium is very delicate. Just the same, the facts are that the Israelis were greatly restrained in their retaliation in Lebanon after the massacre of their people in Kiryat Shemona and in what the Egyptians are now threatening to do.”

Another official, discussing the reports of Soviet deliveries of the latest type of offensive weapons to Syria, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy’s threats of resumed fighting and the warning in the controlled Egyptian press that long-range guns will blast Israeli cities, remarked that such provocations can only mean more U.S. military aid to Israel. “The old Rogers (Secretary of State William P. Rogers) policy of maintaining the balance of power in the Middle East is still U.S. policy.” this source said. “This policy has not changed.”

REPORT BREZHNEV BLASTED KISSINGER.

In view of President Nixon’s intention of going to Moscow in June for his third Soviet-American summit conference, and the Administration’s policy of detente, no public official criticism is being voiced against Soviet actions. Nevertheless, those close to Kissinger report that Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev exploded with “record” wrath at Kissinger in the Kremlin over U.S. policy in the Middle East. The Soviet-Syrian communique that followed Kissinger’s Moscow trip and Soviet fulmination at the UN Security Council on Israel’s retaliation in Lebanon were seen as part of the Soviet psychological warfare against the United States as well as Israel.

That Syria is seeking every possible advantage it can get has long been recognized. Nevertheless, U.S. officials say that Syria’s public and private postures are not alike. The Syrian counter-proposal to Israel for disengagement, one said, “was no disappointment to Israel.” What price the U.S. is willing to pay for Syria to look away from Moscow and more towards Washington is now apparently the major question. That Israel may be forced to concede more than it believes safe for its survival is possible to some here.

Kissinger’s visit to Damascus and Jerusalem at the end of April is expected to indicate what the bargaining will be. The ominous threats from Cairo and Moscow, however, would seem to indicate that U.S. reliance on concessions it has granted thus far to be even handed–principally at Israel’s expense as some see it–has been shaken.

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