JERUSALEM (May. 5)
Officials here said today that they were not concerned by the fact that President Ford’s meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat next month will precede his meeting with Premier Yitzhak Rabin or that Rabin has been invited to come to Washington while Ford will meet the Egyptian leader in Salzburg, Austria–neutral ground. They recalled that most past meetings between American Presidents and Israeli Prime Ministers have been held in Washington.
The Rabin-Ford meeting on June 11-12 was confirmed by simultaneous announcements in Jerusalem and Washington today. The White House announcement said that Ford had invited Rabin “for discussions of matters of mutual interest and in order to strengthen the friendly ties between the two countries.” The official announcement of the Ford-Sadat meeting in Salzburg June 1-2 was made by the White House last Friday.
Officials here said, however, that Israel had been informed in advance of that announcement that President Ford intended to meet with Sadat and Rabin. The officials would give no details of Premier Rabin’s schedule during his two-day visit to Washington or whether he would meet with President Ford more than once. They said they firmly believed that the U.S. would adopt no final positions before Ford’s meeting with Rabin.
U.S. TRYING TO RENEW DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS
The officials said the Cabinet would schedule its “political debate” as close as possible to Rabin’s departure date for Washington. That indicated that the debate would be held after the Ford-Sadat meeting in Salzburg. Ford’s meetings with the heads of the governments of the two principal antagonists in the Middle East conflict are viewed by observers here and in the U.S. as an indication that the United States was renewing its diplomatic efforts to obtain some sort of second-stage accord between Israel and Egypt before the Mideast peace conference is reconvened in Geneva.
Those efforts broke down when the bilateral talks conducted by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger were suspended last March 22, prompting President Ford to order a reassessment of U.S. Middle East policy. It was regarded as significant that the President, not the Secretary of State, will spearhead the new initiative.
Ford will fly to Europe later this month to participate in a meeting of NATO government chiefs to be held in Brussels May 29-30. He will also meet with Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky in Salzburg, The President will be accompanied on his trip by Mrs. Ford.
Ford’s meetings with Sadat and Rabin confirm what observers here and abroad have been pointing out for some time–that neither the United States, Egypt nor Israel are particularly enthusiastic about resuming the Geneva conference without some prior agreement between the disputing parties. The U.S., on the diplomatic defensive in many parts of the world since its Vietnam debacle is apparently hopeful of a diplomatic success in the Middle East before it sits down at Geneva where the Soviet Union enjoys equal status as a co-chairman of the peace conference.
Meanwhile, well placed sources here said today that they had no knowledge of reports from Washington that June 24 has been fixed as the date for a brief session of the Geneva conference. The sources said that this issue would “no doubt” be discussed by Secretary Kissinger and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko who are due to meet shortly to discuss the Geneva conference.