JERUSALEM (Jun. 26)
Government circles were clearly shaken today by President Ford’s angry reaction yesterday to a New York Times story from Jerusalem detailing what purported to be Israel’s latest territorial offers to Egypt for a second-stage interim settlement. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said this morning that Israel disapproved of “leaks” of secret negotiations no less strongly than the U.S. and agreed with President Ford that the Times story contained inaccuracies. It should not be viewed as reflecting the Israeli proposals submitted to Egypt through the good offices of the United States, the spokesman said.
But the severity of Ford’s admonition worried Israeli officials. The President’s statement denouncing the leak was read by State Department spokesman Robert Anderson who made it clear that the President was not criticizing the Times when he declared that the U.S. “will not get into the business of competitive leaks of confidential diplomatic exchanges.” Times Jerusalem correspondent Terence Smith attributed his information to Israeli government sources. (See separate story P. 3)
NEW SOFTENING PROCESS FEARED
Ford’s strong reaction surprised many observers here because the Smith story added little to what has already been reported here and in Washington on the progress of the negotiations. Concern was expressed that the episode could lead to a new period of tension between Israel and the U.S. which abated after Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s meetings with Ford in Washington earlier this month. Some analysts suggested a deeper motivation for Ford’s reaction to the Times story than Presidential pique over leaks of confidential information.
According to these sources, the President’s statement marked the beginning of a new effort by Washington to pressure Israel into softening its terms. This theory assumes that Egypt’s reply to the latest Israeli proposals did not seem promising to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and that the Secretary believes a further softening of Israel’s stand will be necessary if an interim settlement with Cairo is to be obtained.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman noted pointedly today that leaks are not a one-way affair. His statement that Israel strongly disapproved of leaks whatever their source was taken as an oblique hint by the Israeli government that it too has been upset and incensed in the past by Washington’s penchant for feeding selected information to selected newsmen, often as a means of exerting subtle pressure on Israel.