Egypt Accepts, Israel Delays on Deployment of U.N. Observers
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Egypt Accepts, Israel Delays on Deployment of U.N. Observers

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Egypt informed Secretary-General U Thant today that it agreed with the proposal to send U.N. observers to the Suez Canal area and would accept them on Egyptian soil.

The Israeli Cabinet, after two sessions devoted to the question had not, by tonight, reached a decision. Israel, however, was expected to give a qualified assent within the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, in expectation of Israel’s agreement. United Nations staff men began to make arrangements to recruit an observer team and the necessary support in manpower and equipment and Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, at his Government House headquarters in Jerusalem, was reported to be detailing his requirements to mount an effective supervision of the canal zone.

The Security Council’s approval last night of the Secretary-General’s proposals to send U.N. observers to the canal zone confronted Israel with a vexing dilemma. On the one hand, following its experience with the United Nations Emergency Force — the umbrella that was pulled down as soon as. it began to rain — Israel has become more skeptical about the reliance to be placed on U.N. peacekeeping units.

Ambassador Gideon Rafael indicated the type of observer teams Israel would like to see along the canal when he proposed to the Council last night that local Israeli and Egyptian commanders “meet and agree on appropriate arrangements to prevent breaches of the cease-fire.” He pointed out that such arrangements were in effect for civil affairs such as water-supply, transfer of the wounded and prisoners-of-war.


In Jerusalem there was talk of mixed Israeli-Egyptian teams of army officers to patrol the sensitive areas. The Israelis take the position that the 1949 armistice agreements are dead and they are concerned that observers to be deployed here should not be within the truce supervision organization framework although they would be under the direction of Lt. Gen. Odd Bull who would be considered the Secretary-General’s personal representative.

The Israelis did not overlook the advantages of an observer system at points of contact with the Egyptians. The presence of the observers would be bound to reduce the number of border clashes and terrorist attacks which Egypt seems to desire to show that the present cease-fire line is untenable. The arrival of Red Fleet units at Egyptian ports, including Port Said, less than 20 miles from Israeli outposts, will increase tensions that the presence of international observers would serve to abate.

Finally, the stationing of U.N. observers on the cease-fire lines would be an indirect, international recognition of Israel’s presence in the Sinai Peninsula and along the Suez Canal and thus would strengthen Israel’s claims that its withdrawal should be only after direct negotiations.


The Security Council’s consensus on the dispatch of observers to the canal zone was achieved only after a bitter three-hour wrangle in which the Soviet ambassador, Nikolai T, Fedorenko. fought hard to circumscribe the Secretary-General’s authority and to require him to get Council approval of every step. Mr. Fedorenko was particularly adamant in trying to fix the number of observers to be deployed. Since Egypt and Israel had previously agreed to the proposed consensus, it was obvious that Mr. Fedorenko’s zeal was not to protect Arab interests but to pursue long-standing Soviet policy to try to limit the Secretary-General’s discretionary powers.

In last night’s session, Ambassador Rafael took the floor to reply to the vitriolic attack made earlier by Ambassador Fedorenko and to another tirade by the Syrian spokesman. Mr. Fedorenko, Mr. Rafael said quietly, found it difficult to contain “his unmitigated hatred for my country and my people.” The Russians ostentatiously left the chamber when Mr. Rafael spoke and did not hear him when he said the Arab people would have to pay for Soviet policy which had not changed from the Ribbentrop-Molotov expansion agreement to the present.

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