JERUSALEM (Oct. 2)
Israel flatly rejected today a joint declaration by the United States and the Soviet Union released last night, that called for the participation of “representatives…of the Palestinian people” in Middle East peace talks at Geneva and for resolution of “such key issues as withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict.”
A five-point statement issued by the government this morning charged that the declaration “contravenes the true meaning of Security Council Resolution 242″ and warned that it “cannot but still further harden the positions of the Arab states and make the Middle East peace process still more difficult.”
Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich, who presided at today’s weekly Cabinet session in the absence of Premier Menachem Begin, told newsmen afterwards that the U.S.-Soviet joint declaration was an attempt to impose a settlement and said Israel might have to be prepared for “a period of emergency.” But Ehrlich added, “Perhaps this is not the last word” and noted that Israel has weathered disputes with the U.S. in the past.
In an earlier statement to the press on his return from the U.S. last night, Ehrlich said the U.S.-Soviet accord on the Middle East need not necessarily bring about a confrontation between Israel and the U.S.
But there was an air of deep despondency here today. The U.S.-Soviet communique was widely viewed as the start of an attempt by the two superpowers to “impose” a Mideast peace settlement, a course that both the present government and its Labor-led predecessor have vowed to oppose. Ehrlich hinted to newsmen that the government would make new overtures to the opposition parties to form a national unity coalition.
The text of the U.S.-Soviet declaration is believed to have been shown to Israel before its release. Begin is said to have read it on Friday, shortly before he was hospitalized for what was described as exhaustion.
TEXT OF ISRAEL GOVERNMENT’S STATEMENT
The government’s statement that followed said: “The Soviet Union’s demand that Israel withdraw to the pre-June, 1967 borders–a demand which contravenes the true meaning of Security Council Resolution 242–is known to all.
“Despite the fact that the governments of the U.S. and Israel agreed on July 7, 1977 that the aim of the negotiations at Geneva should be ‘an overall peace settlement to be expressed in a peace treaty’ the concept of a ‘peace treaty’ is not mentioned at all in the Soviet-American statement.
“There is no reference at all in this statement to Resolutions 242 and 338, despite the fact that the U.S. government has repeatedly affirmed here-before that these resolutions constitute the sole basis for the convening of the Geneva conference.
“There can be no doubt that this statement, issued at a time when discussions are proceeding on the reconvening of the Geneva conference, cannot but still further harden the positions of the Arab states and make the Middle East peace process still more difficult.
“As the Prime Minister has stated, Israel will continue to aspire to free negotiations with its neighbors with the purpose of signing a peace treaty with them.”
POINTS OF PRESSURE
Meanwhile, there was no word here on the substantive state of the talks going on in the U.S. between Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and U.S. officials. The U.S. is believed to be pressing Israel on two points: admittance of “low level” PLO representatives to the Geneva talks and inclusion of the “Palestinian issue” on the Geneva agenda. PLO participation is believed to be conditioned on its acceptance of Israel’s right to exist and adherence to Resolution 242 which might be amended to include a reference to Palestinian national aspirations.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance is understood to have submitted new proposals to Dayan covering these points at their meeting in New York on Friday. The Cabinet was briefed on the state of the Dayan-Vance talks by Ephraim Evron, director general of the Foreign Ministry. The meeting adjourned early for Meyer Weisgal’s funeral at Rehovot. He died Thursday at the age of 83.