JERUSALEM (May. 25)
Two Israeli newspapers reported today that U.S. officials have drafted working papers calling for Israel’s withdrawa to its 1967 borders in two stages with various security provisions. Haaretz said this morning that the working papers were part of Washington’s preparations for its overall proposals to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. The afternoon paper Yediot Achronot confirmed the report and added that the working papers were prepared by middle echelon State Department officials to be submitted to the top echelon.
(The reports were promptly denied in Washington today. Replying to questions from reporters, the State Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter said “No such plan has been formulated. We’re still talking with the parties,” he said, adding that “we’ve said the terms for a Middle East settlement must be negotiated by the parties.”)
In Jerusalem, the new U.S. Ambassador, Samuel Lewis, also denied the existence of a U.S. Mideast peace plan in response to questions about the report in Haaretz. “I’m quite sure it’s not true,” he said to reporters as he was emerging from a meeting with Premier Yitzhak Rabin whom he called on after presenting his credentials to President Ephraim Katzir.
He added that it was “peculiar” that such purported peace plans are published in Jerusalem “when we don’t have any peace plans in Washington.” But well-placed Israeli sources, while not questioning the formal accuracy of the Ambassador’s denial, tended to believe that the content of the ideas reported in Haaretz did to a large degree reflect current thinking in the State-Department.
WITHDRAWAL PROCESS CITED
According to Haaretz, which did not identify its sources, the elements of the U.S. working papers are: Israel will be called upon very shortly to specify precisely its demands on the “future of the peace,” meaning the components of normalization of its relations with the Arabs. It will be asked to note which demands are of greatest priority and which are of lesser importance.
Israel will withdraw to its 1967 lines, except for insignificant border alterations, in two stages extending over a period of 6-10 years. The question of who will supervise the evacuated territories between the stages remained open. One suggestion called for a neutral force acceptable to both sides.
The Gaza Strip would not be linked to a West Bank Palestinian entity and will not be returned to Egypt which has made clear that it doesn’t want it. According to Haaretz, this would open the way for part of the Gaza Strip–the thinly populated Rafah salient–to remain under Israeli control as the buffer zone which Israel insists on keeping.
OTHER ELEMENTS OF THE PAPERS
The reported U.S. working papers proceed from the assumption that occasional terrorist incursions are virtually unavoidable. Electronic sensors would guard against the danger of strategic assaults by massed forces. The sensors, to be manned by the Arabs and Israelis, would be located on the Jordan River, on Israel’s eastern border, in Sinai and on the Golan Heights.
The Sinai Desert would be completely demilitarized and returned to Egypt. Egypt would not be allowed air bases in Sinai but would maintain early warning posts near Israel’s border and Israel would maintain a similar station about 20 kilometers east of the Suez Canal. A similar arrangement would prevail on the Golan Heights where the Israelis, in addition, would be permitted to maintain military salients within the Syrian lines for an unspecified period of time.
Another security arrangement would limit the number of war planes stationed at forward Syrian and Jordanian air bases and these would be supervised by neutral forces, Haaretz said.