JERUSALEM (Feb. 19)
Israeli officials reacted cautiously today to reports that the United States was studying guarantees to Israel, possibly even a formal defense pact, in connection with a second-stage Israeli-Egyptian agreement in Sinai.
The officials indicated that they viewed a U.S. commitment as an additional strengthening factor behind such an agreement but insisted that the central plank of any settlement with Egypt must be mutual commitments exchanged directly between Israel and Egypt. The officials stressed that the matter of U.S. guarantees did not come up in last week’s talks here between Israeli leaders and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.
The officials were responding to reports that U.S. State Department military and legal experts have begun a serious study of possible guarantees to Israel. Sources accompanying Kissinger on his current European visit were said to have received that information from a senior U.S. official aboard Kissinger’s plane enroute from Zurich to Paris. According to these sources, the study was ordered by Kissinger, apparently in anticipation of a second-stage agreement between Israel and Egypt that is expected to come under negotiation when Kissinger returns to the Middle East next month.
The officials said that since no formal communications between Washington and Jerusalem communications between Washington and Jerusalem have been held on this issue, Israeli diplomats would not react to the reports in their talks with State Department officials preparatory to Kissinger’s return trip. They suggested, however, that the matter of guarantees may well come up while Kissinger is here next month.
Foreign Ministry sources recalled that Foreign Minister Yigal Allon had warned in Dec. 1973, when he was Deputy Premier in the Meir government, that Israel should not dismiss out of hand the idea of U.S. guarantees but at the same time should use caution in reacting to it.
During the talks with Kissinger here last week the Israeli negotiators insisted on guarantees of non-belligerency from Egypt in return for territorial concessions and also demanded assurances that any agreement negotiated with Egypt at this time will not be abrogated when the Geneva conference resumes, should it end in deadlock. Egypt has demanded a firm time-table of withdrawals from Israel and President Anwar Sadat has suggested that Kissinger act as “guarantor” for both sides.
According to the reports from Paris, the State Department experts were instructed to study such questions as who would decide that a situation has arisen requiring implementation of the guarantees and what the guarantor would be required to do once such a situation occurred.
Israeli officials also indicated that, along with a U.S. guarantee, they would welcome provisions to strengthen the United Nations’ role to police a new Israeli-Egyptian agreement. Their reference to a UN role was seen as a hint that while Israel might welcome American commitments, it would not favor a U.S. physical presence in the policing arrangements since that would inevitably mean a Soviet presence as well.