JERUSALEM (Nov. 14)
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and former French Premier Pierre Mendes-France discussed the Middle East situation here today and while Dayan disagreed with the visitor’s contention that Israel had missed opportunities for peace talks in the past, both statesmen felt there was hope for a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mendes-France, here for a symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the Zionist Socialist periodical. “New Outlook,” said the Israeli-U.S. working paper on Geneva conference procedures was an “Israeli achievement.”
Mendes-France said that as a Socialist, he could not understand why it was criticized by leftist groups because “under existing conditions a better paper could not have been reached.” The French Socialist leader said he favored direct Arab-Israeli talks and would like to see Big Power involvement in the Mideast lessened. Dayan said that since the Ben Gurion government, Israel had tried without success to establish direct contacts with the Arabs.
Mendes-France thought that “had Israel offered to the Arabs in 1967 bilateral talks on territorial concessions and a discussion of the Palestinian problem–as it offers today–things would have looked different.” But Dayan reminded his guest that Israel’s attempted initiatives, through the good offices of the U.S., resulted only in the famous “three no’s” of the Khartoum summit conference–no negotiations, no recognition, no peace.
Dayan insisted that no responsible Israeli government could have taken any earlier initiatives. He and Mendes-France agreed that the situation was not hopeless as long as an Arab leader such as Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat talks of a possible visit to Jerusalem.
SADAT VISIT NO SUBSTITUTE FOR GENEVA
Referring to Sadat’s proposal at the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, Dayan said that while it was a positive sign it could not replace negotiations with each of the Arab countries on all subjects in dispute. The target should be an overall Mideast settlement and not just a bilateral agreement with one country, he said. Premier Menachem Begin told the Cabinet that if Sadat accepted his invitation to visit Jerusalem he would ask the speaker of the Knesset to allow the Egyptian leader to address that body.
Sadat’s proposal that an unidentified Palestinian professor, now resident in the U.S., represent the Palestinians at the Geneva conference was received with considerable skepticism but was not rejected outright. The Cabinet adopted no official position because the proposal has not been conveyed officially to Israel.
(Meanwhile, according to reports from Tunis Arab foreign ministers meeting there agreed to postpone an Arab summit conference until mid-February to allow more time to negotiate a resumption of the Geneva peace conference. Egypt apparently was the chief proponent of delay, fearing that if an Arab summit meeting is held before the Geneva talks reconvene, it could be locked into a less flexible position on a Mideast peace settlement.)