JERUSALEM (Oct. 14)
As Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger left Israel yesterday after close to six hours of talks with Premier Yitzhak Rabin and top officials, observers here said his current Mideast tours seemed aimed as much to ease inter-Arab differences as to draw the Arabs and Israelis closer to negotiations. Well-founded reports of his talks so far in Cairo, Damascus. Riyadh, Amman and here in Jerusalem all point to their tentative and exploratory nature–with the political future of the region poised in the balance until the Arab summit conference set to begin in Rabat, Morocco Oct. 26.
In this context. Kissinger is seen as intent on creating a more favorable atmosphere in the Arab world towards further political talks with Israel. His mission is to some extent a “lobbying” effort in advance of the Arab summit. Mideast observers feel that the general Arab climate at present discourages Egyptian President Anwar Sadat from embarking on any further political talks with Israel, especially when Israel insists, as it emphatically does, that the next stage must be not merely another military disengagement but a substantial and meaningful political accord.
Sadat is seen to be in need of bolstering by the U.S. if he is to take the plunge into political talks with Israel–and this is a major factor in the Secretary’s current visit.
WEST BANK ISSUE DISCUSSED AT LENGTH
Jordan, too, needs Kissinger’s aid. and particularly through his influence upon pro-Western Arab leaders, in advance of the upcoming fateful debate at the summit on the future of the West Bank. King Hussein has warned that if the Arab world persists in recognizing the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians on the West Bank, he will direst himself of all responsibility for the political future of the area.
For Kissinger, of course, as well as for the hopes of a settlement in the region, such a move would be a devastating blow, since Israel has stated repeatedly that it will not negotiate with the PLO. The Secretary, therefore, has discussed the West Bank issue at length both here and in the Arab capitals, seeking to be able to tell Sadat. Syrian President Hafez Assad, other Arab leaders, and Hussein himself, that the Israelis are in principle ready and willing to negotiate an interim settlement with Jordan on the West Bank issue.
Kissinger obtained such a declaration of in tent from the Israeli side in the talks here, but in the most general terms. There was no discussion of detail, either in geographical terms or in terms of draft clauses in a possible future accord with Hussein. The same is true, reliable sources said, of the discussions on a possible second-stage Sinai settlement. The discussion was extremely general, with the Secretary reporting on Sadat’s overall position and the pressures upon him, and Rabin delineating the Israeli position and what he and his government envisage by “a substantial political agreement.”
“We really had nothing to decide,” a Cabinet source told the JTA after the midnight-to-3 a.m. Cabinet session Saturday after the first round of talks with the Secretary. “The talks have not yet reached the decision-making stage.”
KISSINGER’S ATTITUDE IS OPTIMISTIC
On the whole, the source continued. Kissinger’s attitude was optimistic. The Secretary, having talked with both sides extensively both in the U.S. and now in the area, felt that there was good ground for hope that a second-stage Israel Egypt dialogue could be launched, with Israel Jordan negotiations to follow almost concurrently.
The Secretary had not detailed his views on Israel’s demand for a formal “cessation of belligerency” pact as the suitable political return for any further withdrawal in Sinai, the source said. The talks had been too general for even such an analysis. It is, nevertheless, fairly clear here that Kissinger believes Sadat cannot and will not agree to such a formal declaration, and Kissinger would, therefore, prefer Israeli leaders to speak less of the formality and more, perhaps, of the concrete provisions which they would like to see in such a pact with Egypt.
In fact, the Secretary’s view is understood to be shared by some Israeli Ministers–and it gained expression at the special Cabinet session here Friday which discussed “guidelines” in advance of the talks with Kissinger. Some Ministers suggested that the component parts of a non-belligerency pact–such as termination of the economic boycott, abandonment of political warfare and cessation of maritime blockades–might be more easily obtainable, and were ultimately more important than a formal declaration terminating belligerency. Sadat has repeatedly said he will make no such formal declaration until all Arab lands were evacuated and some circles here tend to believe him.
CABINET ENDORSES RABIN’S POSITION
Other Ministers argued, however, that successive Israeli governments since Levi Eshkol had declared that Israel would not withdraw without peace and that a formal renunciation of belligerency was, therefore, a prerequisite of any agreement with Egypt if this basic policy platform was not to be betrayed. The Cabinet, at any rate, unanimously endorsed Rabin’s position that Israel must obtain a substantial political return in exchange for any more territory handed back.
This was the principle that the Secretary was asked to convey to the Arab leaders in the hope that Israel’s readiness to progress toward a settlement, coupled with Kissinger’s own efforts to bolster moderate trends within the Arab world, would produce progress following the Arab summit.
KISSINGER TO RETURN IN NOV.
Kissinger, who was again in Damascus today after again visiting Cairo and prior to his visit later today to Algeria, told reporters at Damascus Airport that he had found “positive and encouraging signs” in his Mideast peace mission. He also announced that he would be returning to the Mideast early next month to resume consultations with Arab leaders after the Rabat conference. His task then, Kissinger said, would be to see “what concrete expression can be given to this search for peace in the Middle East.”