WASHINGTON (Aug. 4)
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban today endorsed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s proposal for an Arab-Israeli working group to discuss procedures for a Middle East settlement. He also supported Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s acceptance of the idea. “Israel is wise in being flexible and versatile,” Eban said in a National Press Club appearance. “We should not be too rigid about the framework of negotiations” or where they take place.
Eban, who is in the United States on a two-week tour to explain the Begin government’s views, was asked how he, a Labor Party leader, could now defend the present Israeli leader who had opposed Labor for three decades. “I’m not defending any government,” he replied. “I’m defending the State of Israel’s political position and national interest.” The maintenance of basic U.S. Israeli harmony, he added, “is of such a crucial national interest no one called upon to serve it has the right not to contribute.”
Eban urged Americans to have “a certain degree of reticence where the final boundaries should be for Israel,” pointing out that “in the final resort, where there has to be sacrifice it is Israel’s life and blood. We claim, therefore, sovereignty over the minimal conditions for survival.”
“Whose views should prevail?” he asked the overflow audience. “Those who would suffer most if it should go wrong.”
CHIDES MEDIA ON SETTLEMENT ISSUE
Responding to questions on Israel’s legalization of three settlements on the West Bank, Eban chided the media for “inflating” their significance. He said if he had to list the 100 most important things in the current Israeli situation, the settlements would not be among them. He said he felt President Carter, who said they were an obstacle to peace, does not think it will stop or even slow down the procedures for negotiations.
Eban met yesterday with Presidential advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Lipshutz, and Stuart Eizenstat. He also spoke with some 20 Senators and many more House members, including the leaders of both parties and with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger last night. Eban is scheduled to address groups in other major American cities. Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz left for Jerusalem today to prepare for Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s visit to Israel. Dinitz will be gone two weeks.