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Special Interview Eban Sees Sharp Differences Between Israel, the U.S. on Mideast Situation

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At the conclusion of a two-week official visit to the United States as a special emissary of Premier Menachem Begin, Labor MK Abba Eban said that “it is quite clear that there are very sharp divergences” between Israel and the United States on how to resolve the Arab-Israeli dispute. He characterized the present American-Israeli relations as “delicate” and warned that “if the Palestine Liberation Organization gives America the impression it is changing its attitude (on UN Security Council Resolution 242) the present harmony between America and Israel will no longer prevail.”

In a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the former Foreign Minister, who during his visit met with Administration officials, members of Congress and editors of major newspapers, said that there is a “division” between atmosphere and substance as far as relations between the U.S. and Israel are concerned.

“The atmosphere of relations is warm and cordial,” Eban observed. “There seems to be a desire to avoid any impression of a rift with Israel. But when we examine the positions of Israel and the United States on substance, it is quite clear that there are very sharp divergences. The media seems to be more aware, more sensitive to these divergences than Administration officials.”

MAJOR POINTS OF DIVISION

Eban said that the Palestinian Issue and PLO representation in peace talks are the major points of division between Israel and the United States. “Americans say that America has a tradition of talking to its enemies. . . That is the chief argument that we (Israel) have not overcome, that even if a government or organization is violently hostile,

Eban added that he does not advocate a change of Israel’s position toward the PLO, but he said the Israeli position is not “well understood” in America and suggested increased Israeli efforts to explain its positions to the American public.

Asked if he envisioned a rift between Israel and the U.S. in the event the PLO will accept Resolution 242, Eban replied: “So long as the PLO holds its present position, there is harmony between the United States and Israel. The United States will not ask Israel to talk to the PLO unless there is a change in the PLO attitude. But if the PLO does give America the impression it is changing its attitude, the present harmony between America and Israel will no longer prevail.”

LABOR, LIKUD UNITED ON OPPOSING PLO

Eban said in that case “The United States would say that it is more important to embark on a negotiation than to make an issue about representation and participation (in peace talks)….” At this point he added that in all his conversations here in the last two weeks he pointed out that “on the question of refusing to negotiate with the PLO, the present Israeli government and the Labor Alignment are united.”

Responding to a recent report that the French government is planning to introduce a revised Resolution 242 to accommodate Palestinian demands, the former UN Ambassador said he does not believe such a resolution could be passed in the Security Council. He also said he does not think the U.S. will support such a move.

As to the role of the Soviet Union in the Mideast and relations with Israel, Eban said: “I don’t believe the Soviet Union has changed its position since (Foreign Minister Andrei) Gromyko told me in 1973 that the resumption of relations (with Israel) depends on important progress in the Geneva conference. He did not define what ‘important progress’ meant, but it was obvious that the disengagement agreements so far concluded were not sufficient. At the moment the negotiation is by general consent focused on Washington. There is no substitute for the United States in the mediation role.”

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