ATLANTA (Apr. 5)
Assistant Secretary of State Alfred L. Atherton declared here today that Israel’s “new” interpretation of Security Council Resolution 242 and its policy of establishing settlements in the occupied territories have “complicated efforts to make progress in the negotiations between Egypt and Israel” and also “inhibited efforts to broaden those negotiations to include other Arab parties.”
Atherton, designated by President Carter as his Ambassador-at-Large in the Middle East with the task of furthering a comprehensive settlement between Israel and its neighbors, made his remarks in the course of a “status report” at a conference on the Middle East here attended by Jewish, Arab American and civic and union leaders.
The conference is one of a series sponsored by the State Department and various non-governmental groups aimed at clarifying Administration policies in the Middle East. Co-sponsor of the Atlanta meeting was the Southern Center for International Studies.
SECURITY PROBLEM FOR ISRAEL
Atherton told his audience that the Administration can talk frankly and openly about its differences with Israel which “testifies to the closeness of our friendship.” He also observed that “We constantly have before us the very real security questions posed for Israel. We cannot conceive of any formula the United States–or Israel–could accept which did not make the fullest provision for these security concerns as part of a peace settlement.”
He added, in that connection that the U.S. would be “prepared to consider whatever bilateral United States security guarantees Israel may consider desirable as part of the peace settlement…in close consultation with the Congress in full consonance with its Constitutional authority and responsibilities.”
BASIC DIFFERENCE OUTLINED
Atherton said that the U.S. has “a basic difference with the Israeli government over the applicability of the withdrawal principle in Resolution 242 to all fronts of the conflict.” He noted that “the authors of Resolution 242 and all the governments concerned, including the government of Israel, understood at the time that the withdrawal-for-peace concept applied wherever territory was occupied in 1967. The present position of the Israeli government is that this concept does not apply to all fronts.
“Specifically, it has not so far agreed that, in the context of a final peace embodying commitments to normal peaceful relations and agreed security arrangements which can include agreed border modifications, Israel will withdraw from any of the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza–the parts of former Palestine lying outside Israel’s 1967 boundaries.
“This new Israeli interpretation of Resolution 242 together with the policy of establishing Israeli settlements in occupied territory, has complicated efforts to make progress in negotiations between Egypt and Israel. It has also inhibited efforts to broaden those negotiations to include other Arab parties, in particular Jordan and Palestinian representatives who, together, have an interest in negotiations relating to the future of the West Bank and its Palestinian Arab inhabitants.”
He acknowledged that “the withdrawal-for-peace formula, as it applies to the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinian issue generally, are the most difficult for Israel in all our deliberations.”
Continuing, Atherton said “We know that our ideas–dealing as they do with the key issues for Israel of security, withdrawal, the Palestinian question, and the future of the West Bank and Gaza–require agonizingly difficult choices to be made. We hope, nevertheless, that our ideas will commend themselves to Israel, because we believe they offer the possibility–perhaps the only possibility–for renewing the momentum of the Egyptian-Israeli negotiating process.”
GENUINE ATTEMPTS TO COME TO TERMS
He conceded that “the hopes of November (when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt visited Israel) turned to frustration and disappointment, to charge and countercharge.” However, he said, “I would suggest to you that nothing has gone irretrievably wrong. . . . What we are seeing today, for the first time in the history of the (Arab-Israeli) conflict are genuine attempts by the key parties involved to come to terms.” he added that “We must not, we do not intend, to let this moment in history become simply another lost opportunity.”
The State Department told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the meetings, such as the one addressed by Atherton, will continue as part of the Administration’s policy of openness and consultation with a wide variety of American citizens about their views.