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Behind the Headlines Meaning of Ford-brezhnev Communique

The major significance of the Middle East passage in the Brezhnev-Ford communique in Vladivostok, following their relatively brief (one hour) discussion on that area’s problems, appears to be that the superpowers have agreed to prevent a fifth Israel-Arab conflict in the near future.

Beyond that, a conclusion drawn by some is that the superpowers have edged a bit closer to the long-held Moscow viewpoint that Moscow and Washington must impose a “peace” on the Mideast, That “peace” it is thought, may be disguised as a UN solution but in effect it will be a Soviet-American agreement along the lines of the old Rogers formula–“insubstantial changes” in Israel’s pre-Six-Day War borders.

Moscow has been agitating for that type of big power solution even before the first summit meeting between President Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I Brezhnev in May 1972 The U.S. position has been against an imposed agreement–a pledge that Israel has consistently held to be a cardinal element of its ties to Washington. Now it seems a “new reality” is enforcement of the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242 that is embodied in the Council’s Resolution 338 mentioned in the Vladivostok communique as the basis for settlement.

Of utmost importance is the emphasis in the communique that Moscow and Washington “believe” that the Geneva conference “should resume its work as soon as possible.” This would seem to mean, contrary to talk here by some American officials. that Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s one-man efforts are about over. Whether it means that the Palestine Liberation Organization will participate as an individual entity is not clear but Soviet support of the UN General Assembly Resolutions backing the PLO and not mentioning Israel would indicate that in some way the PLO will be present in the next round in Geneva–possibly as an “observer.”

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Technically, Israel can veto the entry of any new participant in the Geneva conference but in the absence of a hard and fast American statement that the U.S. will not deal with the PLO in any way it is more than likely that Washington will lean more heavily than ever on the Rabin government to accept a “psychological” setback now with the hope of getting a pledge of firm support of “safe and secure” borders later.

On paper at least, Israel’s sovereignty appeared reassured by the Ford-Brezhnev communique. It reaffirms Security Council Resolution 338 that set the cease-fire in the Yom Kippur War. But this paper agreement can hardly be comforting to the Israelis who saw the “principles” of the first Soviet-American summit in 1972 violated by Soviet support of Egypt and Syria to attack Israel in Oct. 1973 and Soviet encouragement if not inspiration of the Arab oil embargo designed then, and as threatened now, to alienate America from Israel.

Analysts here feel that once, as it is now fully expected, UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim induces Syria to tolerate the presence of the UN forces on the Golan Heights without a further Israeli pullback, negotiations will be made for the Geneva conference to reopen. The unanswered question is how Israel will be approached by Washington to deal with the PLO.

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