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Behind the Headlines Trial Balloons Are Being Floated for Mideast Conference in Fall

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Trial balloons are up and soaring for a Geneva-type conference in early autumn to move towards “settlement” of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Although the White House has denied the reports as untrue, skeptics noted that they were floated by commentators intimate with highest Administration authorities and they are usually accurate in their disclosures of Administration ideas.

Actually, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency saw signs of balloons being readied for floating some five weeks ago and noted at the time that some Administration people were forecasting a grave crisis in late summer in the Middle East in which President Ford would have to take a hand. This role would consequently enhance his global image as a peacemaker at the height of the Presidential election campaign.

In any event, some analysts see the ground-work being readied by the U.S. foreign affairs establishment for movement towards a climax on the problems of the area. Of deep concern to observers is the view taken by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger that “world opinion” dictates his position on Rhodesia. While the democratic principle of rule by the majority of a country’s inhabitants is naturally regarded as right by analysts, the difficulty associated with that “world opinion” as it affects Israel is that it is easily manufactured by the Arab-communist-Third World Bloc in the United Nations and they often get support from others, too, which put expediency above principle.

KISSINGER SEES NO GAP

In another indication of possibilities towards going to Geneva, Kissinger has observed that the U.S. and the Soviet Union are not widely separated in outlooks on Geneva-type conferences. The stumbling bloc is Palestine Liberation Organization participation. The Soviets want the PLO to enter into discussions while the U.S. will not allow this until the PLO recognizes Israel.

In a mid-May interview here, Kissinger was asked about the latest Soviet proposal for a two-stage Geneva Conference, including the possibility of the PLO working in its preparation. Kissinger noted that the U.S. had proposed a two-stage approach and then added that “if the first stage could be conducted without the PLO, without any prejudice, to what happens later, then I think we would be very close to the Soviet position. But the first stage could include those countries that were invited to the first Geneva Conference (Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the two superpowers,) and that those countries were, after all, the originators of the Conference decide where we go from here.”

Kissinger disclosed that the question of whether the PLO would be able to participate as a member of one of those delegations in the preparatory parley “has never been raised yet.” This leaves an opening for the Soviets to reach a compromise with the U.S. and in turn both superpowers could put their weight on the PLO to agree to recognize Israel by some formula and Washington in turn could focus on Israel to relent against the PLO because “world opinion” dictates at least that much change in position to move towards peace.

(Kissinger after meeting United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim at the UN yesterday said that while there were ongoing talks about the Middle East situation the U.S. was not engaged in any specific new initiatives to bring about a Mideast peace settlement.)

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