JERUSALEM (Jul. 26)
A Labor Alignment motion of no confidence in the government was beaten back today in the Knesset by a vote of 70-35, thus giving solid support to Premier Menachem Begin’s policies in the Middle East peace negotations. During the three-hour debate, speeches were moderate, in sharp contrast to the bitter invective hurled between Begin and the Alignment opposition at the Knesset’s last session Monday. Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban and Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Nissim of Likud were the main protagonists in today’s debate over the government’s Mideast policy.
Nissim defended the government’s offer of limited self-rule for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, claiming that it contained more negotiable elements than the Alignment’s proposals of territorial compromise. According to Nissim, neither Egypt nor Jordan would accept territorial compromise and Labor therefore misled the public when it claimed that a settlement could be reached on such basis.
Eban maintained that the government’s position was growing harder while that of Egypt was softening significantly. He said that Egypt now accepted full peace with Israel and minor border changes while Israel has moved from its traditional willingness to offer territorial compromise to a “not one inch” position.
This, Eban said, was “a tragedy.” He also criticized the government for its swift rejection of President Anwar Sadat’s suggestion that El Arish be returned to Egyptian civil administration as a gesture of good faith. The least the government could have done was to investigate whether the idea could lead to an interim agreement, he said.
Eban questioned Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s claim that there were “points of contact” between the Israeli and Egyptian peace proposals. It was “like saying that black and white are the same because they are both colors,” Eban said. Finally, he deplored the government’s attacks on Labor Alignment chairman Shimon Peres’ meeting with Sadat in Vienna earlier this month and its flat rejection of the peace proposals formulated by Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and the former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.
Nissim stressed that the government is prepared to negotiate a territorial compromise if the other side proposed one and that Dayan had so informed Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. He denied that the government wants to limit Labor Party contacts and political discussions with foreign leaders. But he insisted that Peres’ trip to Vienna was improper, coming as it did on the eve of the Israeli and Egyptian foreign ministers’ meeting in England.
ATHERTON IN ISRAEL FOR TALKS
Meanwhile, Alfred L. Atherton, President Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, arrived here today from Jordan for 2-1/2 days of talks with Israeli leaders before proceeding to Cairo. Atherton met with King Hussein in Amman and was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week for talks with Saudi officials.
He told newsmen on his arrival that he has returned to the region in a further effort to advance peace negotiations. He said it was premature to predict whether Jordan will join in the peace process between Israel and Egypt and that his conversations in Amman were intended to keep Hussein informed of the latest developments.
Atherton would not comment on the prospects for an early renewal of Israeli-Egyptian talks, possibly at a Sinai locale, and said he knew nothing of plans reported in the press to send Vice President Walter Mondale to the Middle East as a special emissary. Mondale was in the region at the end of June and early July.
Atherton’s arrival, via the Allenby bridge, was informal for a top level diplomat. Dressed casually, with an open collar shirt because of the hot weather, he strolled across the bridge followed by a Jordanian porter carrying his luggage. Midway across the span an Israeli porter took over. Atherton, all smiles, was greeted at the Israeli end of the bridge by Ephraim Evron, Director General of the Foreign Ministry.