JERUSALEM (Mar. 5)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres said today that there were no differences between himself and Premier Yitzhak Rabin over the nature of a second-stage settlement with Egypt in Sinai, said a settlement was possible, provided that Egypt’s present position is not its final one, and dismissed the idea of a U.S.-Israeli defense pact until a final peace settlement is reached in the Middle East, in which case, he observed, it would not be needed.
Addressing foreign journalists at a luncheon here, Peres said that Israel was keeping a close and careful watch on “the continuous and gradual build-up” of Egyptian forces on the Suez Canal. He indicated that while Israel was troubled by this development it was “neither sudden nor sensational” and involved no violations of the Israel-Egyptian disengagement accord.
He said he would forebear from giving details of the Egyptian build-up in order not to contribute to the creation of tension. He stated that Israel was not about to issue any stern warnings to Egypt but was merely “advising” that the next developments be left up to the diplomats without either side “adding military movement” to the situation.
Peres expressed his views as the second visit of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger to the Middle East since February approached. Kissinger will arrive in Aswan, Egypt on Friday for talks with President Anwar Sadat. He will fly to Damascus Sunday for further talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad and is expected in Jerusalem Sunday night.
TWO REALISTIC ALTERNATIVES
Referring to Kissinger’s forthcoming efforts to arrange a second-stage agreement between Israel and Egypt, Peres observed that “between the Ides of March and Passover, vital decisions would be taken, or alternatively, would not be taken, that would affect the fates of the Middle Eastern nations.” He said it was “too early” to judge whether the atmosphere of optimism being generated, particularly in Cairo, was overstated. He said that if Egypt’s declared stand is only its initial position, leaving room for maneuvering, “there is hope.” Otherwise, he doubted if a settlement could be reached.
Peres said that Israel’s position was based on two realistic alternatives–a “modest” interim agreement which did not include Israeli withdrawal from the Mitle and Gidi Passes and the Abu Rodeis oil fields, and a “broader” option. “The Cabinet’s position, the Premier’s position, is completely supported by me,” Peres said, adding that “I cannot see right now any differences” between himself and Rabin.
Other Israeli sources have said that since Kissinger’s last visit, Israel has abandoned the “modest” option for a Sinai agreement because Egypt absolutely refuses to consider it. Peres said, in reply to question, that he was not enthusiastic about ceding the Sinai passes. He said that Israel sought a “limited forces zones” arrangement, new arrangements for demilitarized areas, the continued presence of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), and pledges by both sides to “reduce their military build-up” and to continue negotiations. He also referred to an increase in economic activity between the two sides but did not elaborate.
PEACE WOULD NEGATE NEED FOR PACT
In return for a broad accord, Israel will demand a non-belligerency pact signed directly with Egypt. He said an accord that Egypt signed with the United States in order to escape signing with Israel, would only weaken the commitment to non-belligerency. Sadat must find the courage to “take a different direction with Israel,” Peres said.
He said that Israel has not asked for a defense pact with the U.S. and the U.S. has not offered any. He said he could not envisage any such pact unless and until full peace is achieved in the Middle East. But in that happy event, Israel could live closely with its Arab neighbors with tight economic links and other ties which would render a defense pact with the U.S. unnecessary, Peres said. He affirmed that the present state of U.S.-Israeli relations was satisfactory enough and noted that a defense pact with Israel might deepen Soviet involvement in the Middle East.