WASHINGTON (Jun. 19)
Pro-Israeli sources here reacted yesterday with both negative and positive evaluations to a major speech on the Middle East in San Francisco by Vice-President Walter Mondale. Mondale said the Carter Administration believes Israel should not be asked to withdraw from occupied Arab areas without obtaining “real peace” from the Arab states.
But Mondale said Israel’s security would be enhanced if, as part of a general settlement, it agreed to return to “approximately” the 1967 borders but with the “understanding” it would be shielded by special “security lines” until it was evident permanent peace was in place.
Speaking to the World Affairs Council of Northern California Friday, Mondale said the Palestinian Arabs should have the chance “to shed their status as homeless refugees,” possibly through creation of a Palestinian homeland or “entity” which the United States would prefer to be associated with or linked to Jordan. But he added that the United States would not impose its wishes for that possibility. He also stressed that “we do not intend to use our military aid as pressure on Israel” and that “there must be a willingness on the part of the Palestinians to live in peace alongside Israel.”
Mondale also emphasized that it was United States policy to make clear that by “real peace the United States meant open borders, unimpeded travel, cultural exchanges and trade.
Observers here said they looked on the Mondale speech as spelling out with greater precision President Carter’s views on a settlement. Some recent comments by the President have stirred unease among both American and Israeli Jews.
One pro-Israeli source said that the speech was “reasonably supportive” of Israel, noting particularly that Mondale appeared to emphasize a Carter Administration desire to have a Palestinian homeland or “entity” linked to Jordan.
But the source said the suggestion for “security lines,” apparently along the lines of the Sinai buffer arrangements, was disappointing since Israel is generally feel that Israeli control is vital for Israel’s defense.
Another observer commented that the Mondale address had been carefully prepared to reflect the Carter Administration’s awareness of the concerns in the American Jewish community. The observer said that while in Mondale’s speech, the Carter administration continues to assert it has no timetable and no settlement plan, the Mondale speech as a whole amounted to a plan.
Some sources said that if the Mondale speech was an attempt to allay recently-emerging concerns among American Jews, it did not go for enough. These sources noted that while Mondale spoke of Arab Palestinian refugees, he made no reference to Jewish refugees from Arab lands. The reference to minor rectifications of the 1967 borders were viewed as too vague to suit Israeli requirements for defensible borders.
One strong endorsement of the Mondale speech came from Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D. Conn), a staunch supporter of Israel, who read parts of the Mondale speech on the Senate floor Friday and praised it warmly. Ribicoff said “I have the utmost faith and confidence in President Carter and I support his objectives in the Middle East.”
The net effect of the Mondale speech, following on President Carter’s own statements to reassure American Jews, was regarded by many observers here as somewhat disappointing but nevertheless, clearly supportive of continued United States backing for Israel without affecting the advances made by the United States with Arab leaders.