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Predict Long Impasse in Negotiations with Syria Even if Damascus Agrees to Undof Extension

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Top level government sources predict a prolonged impasse in negotiations with Syria even if Damascus agrees at the last minute-as is expected here-to renew the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observers Force (UNDOF) which expires Nov. 30.

The sources saw little hope for the negotiation of a second interim accord with Syria since Israel could “offer only cosmetic” border changes within the context of an interim agreement and, even in the context of a final peace settlement, would never agree to a total withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Since Syria rejects both positions, there appears to be no practical value at this time for either interim negotiations or negotiations for an overall peace package, the sources said.

They acknowledged that the United States does not accept Israel’s reading of the situation and is vigorously pressing for interim negotiations on the Golan once the UNDOF mandate is renewed, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has made the American position clear on more than one occasion and Washington has been pressing Premier Yitzhak Rabin to make an early visit to the U.S. to explore possibilities for Golan talks, Rabin has eschewed the invitation and is not expected to go to Washington before the latter half of January at the earliest.

U.S. COMMITTED TO ISRAEL

The government sources stressed, however, that the U.S. was committed in writing to continue its support of Israel even if no agreement can be reached on the Golan Heights. The sources said the commitment was part of the American package offered Israel in return for last September’s Sinai accord with Egypt-even though it does not appear among the documents “leaked” and later officially confirmed in Washington during recent Congressional hearings on the Sinai pact.

Thus, Israeli sources believe the U.S. will not undertake another “reassessment” of its Middle East policy even if it is disappointed by a Golan failure, American commitments to Israel will remain firm at least until after the 1976 Presidential elections, which means that Israel is in effect assured of U.S. support for its present political positions for another 15 months the sources said.

The sources did not discount the outbreak of another Mideast war in that period, a risk that obviously falls on Israel. But from the political-strategic viewpoint, Israel would find itself in a comfortable situation if war were to break out, the sources said. They maintained that this was one of the benefits of the Sinai accord with Egypt out of which Israel expects to receive substantial military and economic aid from the U.S.

Israeli optimism that Syria will agree to renew the UNDOF mandate was bolstered by reports that UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim is “hopeful” that his present mission for that purpose will succeed. Waldheim will go to Damascus this week for a meeting with President Hafez Assad. He will visit other Mideast states and is expected in Israel Sunday. There were also reports today that the Soviet Union is trying to persuade Syria to renew the UNDOF mandate.

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