JERUSALEM (May. 30)
Israel was assured by the U.S. today that it does not plan to present a detailed Middle East peace plan, regarded by Israel as one-sided and unfair, at the meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers Council in Washington this week. That information was conveyed to the Director General of the Foreign Ministry, Ephraim Evron, by the American Charge D’Affaires, Richard Viets, at a meeting here this morning. Ambassador Samuel Lewis is vacationing.
The assurances relieved official circles here but apparently did not case the anger and bitterness aroused by reports that Washington originally planned to press the 15 NATO member nations to endorse a peace plan opposed by Israel Viets reportedly confirmed that a much tougher and more detailed draft had been under consideration at lower levels of the Administration but was overruled by the top policy-makers in Washington.
He said the current plan was for the NATO Foreign Ministers to issue a bland, general statement calling on all parties to the Middle East conflict to negotiate a settlement but containing no references to Palestinian rights, territorial matters and other issues in dispute between Israel and the U.S.
Israeli sources said today that the draft outlined by the Embassy official was satisfactory. But officials here are still fuming over three aspects of the affair. They are incensed by the fact that the U.S. contemplated the presentation of a detailed peace plan at a time when it is still waiting for Israel’s replies to questions about its own peace plan; by the drafting of such a document without officially informing Israel; and by the American efforts to play down or even deny the existence of the draft after Israeli diplomats in Europe were apparently told of its existence by friendly sources there.
SEE FURTHER COOLING IN RELATIONS
Government circles here view the episode as signifying a further cooling in U.S.-Israel relations that may foreshadow intensified American pressure on Israel to soften its negotiating position. The U.S. has said that if the Middle East parties are unable to agree on a settlement, it would produce its own peace plan.
The reports over the weekend that the U.S. had already drafted a tough plan for endorsement by NATO, created serious apprehension here. Israeli diplomats in the NATO capitals were instructed, accordingly, to make urgent representations against the emergence of such a document at the Foreign Ministers Council meeting. The original American document reportedly incorporated President Carter’s "Aswan formula" on self-determination for the Palestinian people coupled with a clear statement on territorial withdrawals by Israel on all fronts in compliance with Security Council Resolution 242.
The "Aswan formula," enunciated by Carter and endorsed by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at their Aswan meeting last Jan. 4, referred to the Palestinian problem " in all its aspects" and to the "legitimate rights" of the Palestinians. These, according to the Israeli interpretation, are "code words" that imply major territorial concessions by Israel and the right of self-determination for the Palestinians, culminating in the creation of a Palestinian state.
The formula does not specifically call for self-determination but only for the right of the Palestinians "to participate in the determination of their own future." Nevertheless, Israel found it unacceptable. Application of the withdrawal principle on all fronts conflicts with Premier Menachem Begin’s controversial claim that Resolution 242 does not apply to the West Bank.
U.S. DENIES CHANGE IN POLICY
(The State Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, said in reply to questions today that a paragraph on the Middle East will be included in what was described as a "communique of purpose" to be issued at the end of the NATO Foreign Ministers Council meeting later this week. According to Carter, the drafting of the communique has not been completed yet. Other Administration officials described the reports from Israel about the impending NATO statement as inaccurate. "Quite obviously, the United States does not intend to change its 11-year-old position on Israeli withdrawal in Resolution 242," the officials said. They added, however, that the U.S. has never interpreted 242 as calling for complete withdrawal by Israel from all occupied Arab territories but believes there should be some Israeli withdrawal on all fronts.)