Israeli-u.s. Economic, Political Talks Begin This Week in Washington

A climax to the negotiations for a second Israeli withdrawal in the Sinai and the reopening of Israel’s case for financial support from the United States are to take place this week at the State Department. Two top officials will meet tomorrow with Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisco to put what amounts to the finishing touches on the legal aspects covering Israel’s expected return of the Gidi and Mitle Passes and the Abu Rodeis oilfields to Egypt.

Starting on Wednesday, another Israeli team will present Israel’s requirements for economic and military financial support in the coming year. Sisco will lead the American officials in these sessions too. Ambassador Simcha Dinitz will head both Israeli delegations. Mordechai Gazit, director general of the Premier’s Office, and Meir Rosenne, legal advisor to the Foreign Ministry, are arriving here tonight.

The four-member economic team which already is in New York, will arrive here tomorrow and make its presentation beginning Wednesday. Thus, once the political arrangements are discussed, the economic support phase will begin. The Israelis outlined their requirements totaling about $2.5 billion early last winter but it was put on ice by American authorities pending an Israeli agreement to retreat further in the Sinai.

The Israeli economic team includes Ephraim Dovrat, economic advisor to the Ministry of Finance; David Kochav, economic advisor to the Defense Ministry; Yitzhak Elrom, the Defense Ministry’s budget director; and Arnon Gafni, director general of the Finance Ministry who heads the quartet.

TALKS PART OF REASSESSMENT

State Department spokesman Robert Funseth, said today that officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) began technical talks several weeks ago with Israeli officials regarding Israeli “projections” for the coming year. They would be used, he said, to provide a basis for recommendation to Congress, Specific military requirements will not be part of the talks but financial military needs as part of the “overall financial situation” will be, Funseth said.

Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency if the meetings mark the end of the “reassessment” that President Ford ordered last March 24 after Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger had failed to bring about a second Israeli-Egyptian agreement in the Sinai, Funseth said, “No, this is all part of the overall process we have been engaged in.” He cautioned not to draw “far-reaching conclusions” from the meetings, noting that “hard decisions” remain for Israel and Egypt.

Asked by the JTA if the U.S. also had “hard decisions” to make, Funseth replied smilingly, “From time to time.” Funseth said he did not know whether U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts, will return to Washington with Egyptian views on the Israeli -U.S. meetings.

The AID program still does not have allotments for Egypt, Syria and Jordan whose economic support by the U.S. exceeded that given to Israel last year. One American official when asked what the three Arab countries sought, told JTA “you have to ask Henry (Kissinger). He’s master-minding the whole thing.”

TECHNICAL CONSULTATIONS, NOT MORE

Independent sources here cautioned that the economic meetings at least are “technical consultations, not more.” They said that to attach political indications would be an exaggeration. The purpose is to have U.S. officials understand Israel’s needs. “That is the target and aim of the mission,” one said.

This meeting, according to the sources, was agreed upon in Bonn in July by Israeli Premier. Yitzhak Rabin and Kissinger. Both felt, it was said, that a clarification of Israel’s economic needs was useful “before an interim agreement was achieved” with Egypt. But the timetable of the meetings this week would imply that the political essentials precede the economic clarification.

NEXT STORY