Israel Reacts in Low Key to Syrian UNDOF Mandate Extension

Jerusalem has reacted with deliberate restraint to the good news from the United Nations that Syria has agreed to a six-month extension of the UNDOF mandate on the Golan Heights, There was no official comment whatever, and even on an informal level officials were careful to express no reaction that might embarrass the Syrians or other Arab states.

Until the Syrian announcement was made, officials here and in the UN had expected only a two-month extension. Syrian sources had said repeatedly that their aim would be to have the renewed mandate lapse July 24–to coincide with the end of the UNEF mandate in Sinai, which Egypt had renewed in April for only three months.

Observers here suggested that Syria had soon founded these expectations partly at least in order to demonstrate that it is "not in Egypt’s pocket"–that it takes its own decisions and conducts its own policy. Another theory advanced by some Arabists here is that the Syrian decision was in fact coordinated with Egypt and was taken at Egypt’s request–in order to give Egypt a readily available pretext for extending its own mandate once again, when it expires.

Egypt, according to this theory, will want to renew the mandate without too much fuse because the Geneva conference is now tentatively scheduled to resume in the early fall and Egypt will not wish to prevent or hamper its resumption by its failure to renew the mandate. With Syria’s mandate now extending till December, Egypt can easily renew its mandate in July without any serious lose of face, the Arabists suggested.

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