Waiting for Waldheim

Officials here expect UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim to bring news of a Syrian decision to renew the UNDOF mandate when he arrives here tomorrow. Waldheim’s one-day stay in Israel is part of his Mideast swing occasioned by the UNDOF mandate expiration Nov. 30. But no one here was making a firm forecast today–and there was certainly no knowledge of how long the Syrians would renew the mandate for this time.

Some observers believed they would extend it only for two or three months in order to keep up the general atmosphere of tension engendered whenever the mandate expiration is imminent. Officials indicated that Waldheim would be told–for transmission to Syria–that violations of the disengagement accord such as the Ramat Magshimim attack last Thursday–would not be tolerated.

Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, who are both to meet with Waldheim, are expected to emphasize that the attack, and an earlier one that was foiled a week ago, could not have been carried out without Syrian government consent and active help. Rabin told the Cabinet session today that the terrorist attack could not have been carried out without Syrian army assistance or, at least, knowledge. This act, and similar actions on the Golan Heights, were in complete contradiction to the Syrian undertaking in the separation of forces agreement, he said.

Most observers here saw the attack as connected with a Syrian decision to renew the mandate, and intended as a show of strength and hostility to counterbalance the actual act of renewal. These observers did not believe that Syria is intent on creating a process of deterioration that would lead to war.

They pointed out that Syria is not thought to be militarily prepared for war. Moreover, the Soviets are understood to be counseling caution and restraint. Some observers here added that the Syrian encouragement of the terror raids, and the brinkmanship over the UNDOF renewal, might be a prelude to a Damascus decision to enter into interim talks. These observers recalled how Syria engineered a mini-war of attrition during the winter and spring of 1974–in advance of the disengagement talks and as a way of toughening its stance in those talks.

NOT OPTIMISTIC ON TALKS WITH SYRIA

But the general consensus of opinion in government circles was not optimistic on the prospect of interim talks with Syria. Most observers tended to take at face value the repeated Syrian assertions that Damascus will not move ahead without some concommitant progress on the Palestinian issue.

It was to pave the way for such progress, some observers here felt, that the “Saunders Paper” was issued–as an invitation to the PLO to moderate its formula, with an implied under-taking by the U.S. to treat with it if it does so, United States-PLO contacts could be seen by Syria as a sufficient pretext to move ahead, under American auspices, into interim talks with Israel. There was also some speculation that the U.S. might try to revive Israel-Jordan contacts, with a view to an interim accord between the two states.

NEXT STORY