WASHINGTON (Nov. 23)
Sen. Abraham D. Ribicoff (D.Conn.) said today “the time was never more ripe” for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement and he again urged the continuation of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger in the peace-making role for the United States.
Ribicoff and Sen. Howard Baker Jr. (R.Tenn.) also joined in approving the proposed U.S. sale of nuclear reactors to both Egypt and Israel. Baker specifically ruled out opposition to the sale to Israel because he and other Senators were not permitted to see the Israeli French-made reactor in Dimona during their recent visit to the Jewish State.
The two Senators commented at a news conference following their return with 11 other Senators from a visit to Israel. Egypt and Iran regarding the sale of reactors to them. “We didn’t confine ourselves” to that purpose Ribicoff said, mentioning that King Hussein was also “more than pleased to meet with us” in Jordan.
Baker disclosed that President-elect Jimmy Carter told him at a meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier today that he will meet with Ribicoff regarding Kissinger’s continued service as a Mideast negotiator and also, with Baker and Ribicoff on the proposed sale of the reactors to Egypt and Israel. No date was set for the meeting.
SADAT’S PROPOSAL TERMED NEW
Questioned on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s statement to him in Cairo that he would meet the Israelis “without preconditions” for peace talks, Ribicoff said that Sadat’s proposal was “new to me and I gather to the Israelis.” He also said that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy had indicated “the time was ripe for a package deal.”
Ribicoff pointed out that Egypt and Saudi Arabia had established workable relations with Syria” and, he added, “have a unity of purpose.” He reported Sadat as saying that once a state of non-belligerency was adopted. Israeli flagships could go through the Suez Canal. He also said that Sadat expects the same security for Egypt as Israel would expect for itself.
Ribicoff explained that the time was never more ripe for a peace settlement because of the situation in Lebanon which “deeply hurt the PLO the Arab states’ approval for Syria to “take over” Lebanon, Egypt’s present difficult economic situation, the realization that “Israel is here to stay as a viable nation” and “recognition of this by the Arab countries.”
“This was demonstrated by Sadat’s willingness to go to Geneva without preconditions.” Ribicoff said. “But Sadat did say you cannot solve the problem of the Middle East without solving the problem of the Palestinians–that doesn’t mean the PLO.”
Ribicoff said that the question of open borders between Egypt and Israel, according to Sadat, would have to wait some time for a change in public attitude in the Arab countries. Under questioning, Ribicoff refused to “lay down conditions for anyone.” He said “I believe some adjustments” must be made on territories but “how much I don’t know.”
Asked how he reconciled Sadat’s peace statement and Egyptian attacks on Israel and Zionism in the United Nations and elsewhere, Ribicoff replied that “right now these people are in a state of war. They are antagonists. Sadat is talking of the future. I decried the attacks on Israel but one thing has nothing to do with the other.”
Saying that everywhere he went it was apparent that “nothing would be achieved without U.S. intervention,” Ribicoff declared: “I feel strongly that the best step Carter could make would be to designate Kissinger as his special envoy to carry on these negotiations.” He said Kissinger is the “one man” the Middle Easterners respect. He said he had not talked to Kissinger but “my feeling is he would be willing. If he were requested to take up such an assignment, he would do so.”