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Ford’s Interview Seen As Gentle Nudge

The publication on the eve of Foreign Minister Yigal Allon’s Washington visit, of President Ford’s Time magazine interview devoted largely to the Mideast is seen–both in timing and in content–as a firm but gentle nudge aimed at eliciting further concessions from Israel in advance of second-stage talks. The President’s offer, observers here feel, of formal U.S. guarantees following “some real progress” towards a settlement is intended to soothe Israel’s security susceptibilities and prod her towards greater generosity in her offered Sinai pull-back.

The effort to arrange at short notice a Ford-Allon meeting is seen, similarly, as evidence of the President’s own pressing concern that America’s Mideast efforts should move forwards–and should be seen to move forward.

(In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Anderson said today that Allon will meet with Ford at the White House Thursday and hold afternoon sessions with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger tomorrow and Thursday at the State Department. In view of the President’s delivery of his State of the Union message to Congress early tomorrow afternoon, Anderson said, Kissinger will not host a luncheon as usual for Allon tomorrow. Because of the Secretary’s tight schedule, Anderson also said, Kissinger will not meet Allon at the airport. Anderson urged reporters not to read any significance into these departures from the usual diplomatic courtesies for a Foreign Minister.)

PSYCHOLOGICAL ARM-TWISTING SEEN

Official comment on the interview has been reserved to the well-known Israeli position that American formal guarantees would be welcome indeed, but only in tandem with agreements between the combatants and with adequate defensive arrangements on the ground.

The President’s veiled warning that while the U.S. and Israeli interests coincide at present, they might not always do so, and that in that case the U.S. national interest must take preference in policy-making, is seen here as a piece of psychological arm-twisting–probably engineered by Kissinger–in advance of the Allon talks.

Nevertheless, observers do not ignore the fundamental truth of Ford’s assessment. Official thinking here is very aware of the currently very real and definite American interest in attaining a second-stage settlement and thereby further thwarting Soviet designs in the region. There is, therefore, a readiness to re-examine positions and contemplate farther-reaching proposals, but not until there are clear indications from Egypt that it will offer a substantive political quid pro quo in return. It is looking for such indications, one official said here, that will mark Allon’s talks in Washington beginning tomorrow.

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