State Department Policy Statement Takes Israelis by Surprise

The U.S. State Department’s formal statement yesterday asserting that Israeli withdrawal from territories on all fronts, including the West Bank, was necessary for a “true peace” in the Middle East, took official circles here by surprise. One immediate reaction was that there is a “devaluation” in the meaning of the term “true peace” by the Carter Administration. Premier Menachem Begin is expected to make an official, public response to the statement, probably when he addresses the Jewish Agency’s sixth annual General Assembly Thursday.

Official circles described the statement as “blunt” and indicated that they were disturbed by its timing–less than a month before Begin’s scheduled visit to Washington for talks with President Carter. According to these circles, the statement appeared to contradict the American Administration desire to mute points of disagreement with Israel in order to establish a “comfortable” atmosphere for the Carter-Begin meeting.

They were especially upset by the statement’s stress on Israeli withdrawal, its reiteration of the term “homeland” for the Palestinians and its failure to elaborate on the relations necessary between Israel and its neighbors to assure peace between them.

NO FOUNDATION FOR U.S. VIEW

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, in an official comment this afternoon, said there was no foundation for the argument that Israel has excluded any territories from the negotiating process. The spokesman said that according to the guidelines of the government, everything is open to discussion and negotiation. He referred to Begin’s speech to the Zionist General Council meeting here last week in which he said that Israel does not present ultimatums and the term “not negotiable” does not exist in any Israeli dictionary.

The spokesman said that other matters referred to in the State Department’s statement, such as the definition of “real peace” were subjects to be discussed between Carter and Begin.

NEXT STORY