JERUSALEM (Nov. 25)
The references to the Middle East in the Ford-Brezhnev communique at Vladivostok produced no official reaction in Israel today but sources here indicated that they were “encouraged” by its tone and wording. The very blandness of the Middle East paragraph and its general nature was seen by some observers to indicate that no new differences have arisen between the U.S. and the USSR on the Mid-east. This was interpreted to mean that the two superpowers would continue to cooperate which, in the short run at least, precludes a renewal of Arab-Israeli warfare. (See separate analysis on the communique.)
In the Vladivostok communique, both sides expressed “their concern with regard to the dangerous situation” in the Middle East and “reaffirmed their intention to make every effort to promote a solution of the key issues of a just and lasting peace in that area on the basis of UN Resolution 338, with due account taken of the legitimate interests of all people of the area including the Palestinian people, and respect for the right of all the states of the area to independent existence.” Both sides stated further that “the Geneva conference should play an important part in the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and should resume its work as soon as possible.”
Observers here believe that with detente apparently proceeding well at Vladivostok, the Soviets will seek to restrain Syrian adventurism for the time being and probably will persuade Damascus to agree to an extension of the mandate of the 1200-member United Nations Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF) which expires Nov. 30.
WALDHEIM, ISRAELIS, CONFER TUESDAY
UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim arrived in Damascus today precisely for the purpose of getting Syria’s agreement to continue UNDOF’s peace-keeping operations. Waldheim is due in Israel tomorrow evening and will meet with Premier Yitzhak Rabin immediately on his arrival, officials told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today. He will attend a working dinner with Foreign Minister Yigal Allon tomorrow night and a second session with the Foreign Minister on Wednesday morning which will be attended by Defense Minister Shimon Peres.
Israel is certain to agree to an extension of the UNDOF mandate although it will make no new territorial withdrawals in exchange for Syria’s acquiescence. Officials here are awaiting Waldheim’s arrival to see if the Syrians have put any conditions to an agreement on UNDOF.
Apart from that matter, the Israeli leaders are expected to raise the question of the recent pro-Arab, anti-Israel votes in the General Assembly and at the UNESCO meeting in Paris. But Israeli officials realize that the Secretary General was not responsible for those developments and is only a servant of the UN trying to do his job as well as possible.
(The Security Council is scheduled to receive a report from the Secretary General on Wednesday on the status of UN forces on the Golan Heights, it was reported at the UN today. The report is expected to include Waldheim’s findings during his current Mideast visit. The Security Council will meet Friday to deal with the renewal of the UNDOF mandate.)
UNEASINESS OVER UNDOF STATUS
The uncertain status of the UNDOF force, however, has caused increasing uneasiness among UN personnel manning the Israeli-Syrian lines. Newsmen were barred today, for the first time, from UNDOF’s Bolivar Camp near. Kuneitra which had always been open to visitors. Reporters waiting at an Israeli check-point outside the UN-occupied buffer zone were told by a Canadian officer that a clear indication of UNDOF’s future was still awaited from Damascus.
Meanwhile, UNDOF units carried out their third inspection in a week of Israeli forces in the limited armaments zone. The inspections were carried out at the demand of Syrian authorities who are apparently nervous over Israel’s state of readiness on the Golan Heights as the UNDOF deadline approaches.
Observers here detect some reluctance on Syria’s part, beneath the recent posturing in Damascus, to initiate a new military confrontation with Israel at this time. The Iraqis, Syria’s probable allies in the event of renewed fighting on the northern front, are fully occupied with the Kurdish rebellion. Syria, furthermore, has not fully recovered from its immense losses in the Yom Kippur War despite its massive re-armament by the Soviet Union.