JERUSALEM (Jul. 30)
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan will go to Washington next week instead of this week as originally announced, for talks with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on the nature of the future peacekeeping force in Sinai. He delayed his departure, officials here explained today, in order to exchange views with Egyptian Foreign Minister Boutros Ghali who is due in Israel next week for a session of the autonomy negotiations.
Dayan was invited by Vance for the purpose of resolving the dispute between Israel and the U.S. over the proposal to substitute a United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) force for the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to oversee Israel’s phased withdrawal from Sinai. Egypt was also invited to participate and Ghall is expected to join Dayan in Washington for the discussions with Vance.
Meanwhile, the joint Israeli-Egyptian military committee, meeting in Tel Aviv with the participation of visiting Egyptian Defense Minister Kamal Hassan Ali and Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, agreed to extend its functions to cover all activities that would have been entrusted to UNEF or another multi-national force. The joint committee also agreed to establish better communications between the Israeli and Egyptian generals that head it. They will be connected in the future by a telephone “hot line” and there will also be direct telephone connections between the Israeli and Egyptian commanders in the field. (See related story P.3.)
BASIS FOR APPREHENSION
The Cabinet approved Dayan’s trip yesterday and he had been scheduled to leave at the end of this week. Most ministers are deeply disturbed by the planned replacement of UNEF by UNTSO which the Security Council endorsed on July 24 after the UNEF mandate expired under threat of a Soviet veto. The proposal emerged from behind-the-scenes negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at the UN.
Some Israeli observers see the American willingness to comply with Moscow’s refusal to renew the UNEF mandate as a sign that U.S. policymakers are once again seeking to draw the Soviets into the Middle East negotiating process, as they did with the joint U.S. -Soviet declaration on the Middle East issued on Oct. 1, 1977.
The Cabinet is also apprehensive over recent statements emanating from Washington which, Israel believes, indicated that the U.S. is reconsidering its attitude toward the Palestine Liberation Organization. Reports in the Israeli press last week claimed that the U.S. is contemplating a revision of Security Council Resolution 242 that would make it more palatable to the Palestinians and draw them into the peace negotiations.
According to those reports, the resolution would be amended to refer to the rights of the “Palestinian people” rather than “Palestinian refugees.” Such a change would give the Palestinians political status in the body of the resolution which all parties say they accept as the basis for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Dayan reported to the Cabinet yesterday, however, that Vance reaffirmed to the Israeli Ambassador in Washington, Ephraim Evron, that there has been no change in U.S. policy toward the PLO. The declared American position is that the U.S. will not recognize or negotiate with the PLO until it accepts Resolution 242 which, in the American view, would be tantamount to accepting Israel’s right to exist.
CONTROVERSY OVER UNTSO
Meanwhile, a controversy has developed in Israel over the validity of its objections to a UNTSO force in Sinai. Maj. Gen. (res.) Shimon Levinson, regarded as Israel’s most experienced and knowledgeable liaison officer with UN forces in the region, said yesterday that he saw little advantage in UNEF over UNTSO and that, in fact, UNTSO would be in some ways superior to UNEF for the task at hand.
Levinson was reflecting the views expressed, earlier by Weizman who said he was not troubled by the prospect of a UNTSO force. He told a radio interviewer that it was untrue that UNTSO was the creature of the General. Assembly or the Secretary General, subject to the latter’s control, which is one of the prime reasons for Israel’s misgivings.
Levinson noted that UNTSO was established in 1948 and 1949 by specific resolutions of the Security Council. It could be argued, he said, that its presence in Sinai would be less transient than UNEF since UNTSO did not need to have its mandate renewed periodically. One of Israel’s complaints has been that a UNTSO force could be pulled out of the region arbitrarily by the Secretary General.
Levinson stated further that the required functions in Sinai — surveillance and reporting — could be done more efficiently by the UNTSO observers than by UNEF soldiers. He said that UNEF or a comparable force was useful in an immediate post-war situation such as existed in 1974 when buffer zones needed to be patrolled by UN troops. An UNTSO-type force would be more appropriate and effective in the present situation which calls for checking and reporting on compliance with the various stages of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
But Levinson’s views, while shared by Weizman and the defense establishment, do not reflect the thinking of the majority of the Cabinet ministers. Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai summed up the Cabinet’s opinion yesterday when he said the Sinai issue was seen as a vital test of American credibility.
He noted that President Carter, in a letter accompanying the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, had committed the U.S. to create a multinational force to police Sinai in the event that UNEF was withdrawn. Israel insists that UNTSO does not meet that commitment. The U.S. maintains that it does in fact fulfill the requirements of the American commitment.
Weizman, who is hosting Hassan Ali, did not attend yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and did not participate in the discussion. But Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Yehuda Blum, who is on home leave for consultations, told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that Israel remains opposed to the U.S.-Soviet proposal. He indicated, however, that Israel would be open to suggestions to expand the UNTSO force and bring it under the jurisdiction of the Security Council. In that case, he hinted, UNTSO might be more acceptable.