JERUSALEM (Dec. 15)
Speculation mounted today that the United States was about to press anew for a second interim agreement between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights, Evidence for this view was seen in the visit by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Alfred Atherton who is due here tonight for talks with Israeli leaders before proceeding to Damascus.
Atherton’s visit was not expected until later this month and the announcement of its advance came as a surprise and indicated to observers here that the U.S. may be seeking early action on an Israeli-Syrian accord.
Officials here insisted that this was most unlikely. They said the American aim seemed to be “to show the flag” and that no specific mediation effort was in the making. But Atherton, whose stopover in Jerusalem will be the first leg of a five-nation Middle East tour, may well be seeking to lay the ground work for such an effort in the near future, observers said.
The U.S. official will meet with Foreign Minister Yigal Allon at his home at Ginossar tomorrow and will confer with Premier Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem tomorrow evening. Government sources said no dramatic developments were expected from Atherton’s visit.
(In Washington, the State Department said today that Atherton’s visit to Israel, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt is intended to be “part of our continuing consultations with them.” It said “the visits should be seen as a dialogue in the whole range of bilateral interests.”)
FORD ASKS FOR PRIOR CONSULTATIONS
Meanwhile, it was learned that Rabin disclosed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that he had received a personal message from President Ford calling for consultations and a deepening of mutual trust between Israel and the U.S. The message, which arrived at the end of last week, reportedly spoke of consultations “before actions” which was interpreted here as a polite but firm request by the U.S. that Israel consult with it before taking actions such as the bombing of terrorist strong-holds in Lebanon Dec. 2. Rabin also reportedly informed the Cabinet that former Premier Golda Meir, currently on a fund-raising tour of the U.S., would meet with President Ford.