Rabin’s Office Denies ‘secret Agreement’ Reached in Washington

The Prime Minister’s Office denounced as “lies and falsehoods” reports published here today that Premier Yitzhak Rabin and President Ford had reached a “secret agreement” in Washington last week on a new interim accord between Israel and Egypt. The report, published in Maariv, cited “diplomatic sources in Washington” as the source of that information.

The Cabinet was still meeting in a special session late this afternoon to hear Rabin’s report on his talks in Washington, Political observers believe that the Cabinet will not be called upon to take any new decisions at this time. Rabin himself is understood to believe that further clarifications must come from Cairo before Israel can make any shift in its position of last March when it rejected Egypt’s terms for an interim settlement. During his five days of conferences with American leaders, Rabin stuck to the principle of “parallel concessions” by both sides, a position endorsed by the Cabinet before he left for the U.S. a week ago.

Rabin indicated in his public statements before leaving the U.S. and on his return to Israel last night that he was not satisfied with Egypt’s responses which were conveyed to him by President Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. He and other Israeli and American officials, including Kissinger, have said that further contacts must be pursued through diplomatic channels before any decision can be made on the resumption of the American initiative toward an interim agreement.

PUBLIC UNCERTAIN

Both Israel and the U.S. appear determined to avoid the pitfalls of last March when Kissinger’s “shuttle” diplomacy collapsed. The reasons for the collapse were said to have been inadequate preparation, misunderstandings and unjustified expectations. Public opinion in Israel is still uncertain as to what success Rabin had in the U.S. in advancing the chance of a partial settlement with Egypt. But Rabin is credited for the apparent improvement in U.S.-Israeli relations which had deteriorated sharply after the March fiasco.

The Premier was praised in the press today for having managed to wring from Kissinger a reluctant admission that his “shuttle” failure may have been caused by genuine misunderstandings rather than by Israeli intransigence. Rabin may also have succeeded in convincing President Ford that while America’s interests rank high among Israel’s concerns, no Israeli government can be expected to place them above what it believes to be Israel’s own national interests, newspapers said today.

According to Maariv, however, a “secret accord” was concluded between Rabin and Ford by which Israel would return the Mitle and Gidi Passes to Egypt in exchange for a non-use of force pact to last for three years. The report said that Rabin had originally demanded a five-year pact but was persuaded by Ford and Kissinger that this was unattainable from Egypt. Rabin and Ford agreed also to be particularly cautious and non-committal in their public statements for the time being. Maariv said.

Israel’s position last March was that it would not return the strategic Sinai passes without a formal undertaking of non-belligerency by Egypt. Government circles insist that this is still Israel’s position but that Israel would be prepared for a partial withdrawal from the passes in return for something less than a full non-belligerency pledge from Cairo.

Meanwhile, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was reported today to be in favor of an overall settlement of the Middle East conflict although he saw it as only one of three alternative approaches to the problem. He said, in an interview with the Beirut daily An Nahar, that the alternatives were a renewal of step-by-step diplomacy before the Geneva conference is reconvened or reconvening the conference and conducting stage-by-stage negotiations at Geneva. (By David Landau)

The Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal has raised $162 million in cash for Israel during the current fiscal year, its world chairman , Ezra Shapiro, reported at the opening session of the Jewish Agency’s fourth annual Assembly here last night. The KH-UIA raises funds all over the world except in the United States.

Shapiro noted that this year’s sum exceeded the amount raised after the 1967 Six-Day War and is more than half the record sums raised following the Yom Kippur War in 1973. According to Shapiro, all signs indicate even better results by the end of the fiscal year despite economic recession in many countries resulting from the Arab oil embargo.

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