Arab-israeli Peace Talks May Go into Deep Freeze As a Result of Nasser’s Death
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Arab-israeli Peace Talks May Go into Deep Freeze As a Result of Nasser’s Death

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President Nasser’s sudden death is likely to freeze the already stalled Arab-Israeli peace talks for an indefinite period, Israeli leaders believe. They are hopeful that a new Egyptian regime will make it possible for both sides to start afresh in the quest for a peaceful Mideast settlement. But they are aware that the late Egyptian President was the only Arab leader who commanded the political power and personal prestige necessary to negotiate with Israel and at the moment there is no leader of similar stature anywhere in the Arab world. Egypt’s new interim President is Anwar Sadat, the former Vice President, who is known as a leftist and a bitter foe of Israel. Under Egyptian law the National Assembly must nominate a new president within 60 days, subject to confirmation by a popular referendum. Israeli troops guarding the Suez Canal front and other border zones were put on alert following the announcement of Nasser’s death yesterday. Military sources described the move as a routine precautionary measure taken whenever a change of regime occurs in a neighboring country. (Egyptian troops were also alerted, according to Cairo radio.)

Israeli authorities did not expect any change in the Suez cease-fire in the immediate future. As far as shooting is concerned, the Egyptians have observed the cease-fire carefully since it went into effect on Aug. 7. However, it was noted here that President Nasser exerted strong personal control of the Egyptian Army and it remains to be seen whether his successor will enjoy the same influence. Premier Golda Meir met informally with her senior cabinet ministers last night to discuss the implications of Nasser’s death but no official comment was issued. (Speaking on a taped television interview in New York last night, Foreign Minister Abba Eban predicted a power struggle in Egypt that would reduce that country’s international activities for the time being. “A sudden change like this creates a new opportunity for a nation to appraise its position and its policies.” Mr. Eban said. He said the question was whether the vacuum left by Nasser would be filled by a single leader. “I rather think that there will be a struggle for power and the external effects could be beneficial” because Egypt might want to reduce her international involvement, the Israeli diplomat said. He added that there was a danger that out of devotion to Nasser, the new regime would “blindly follow the old course.”)


The only government figure to comment publicly here was Minister-Without-Portfolio Israel Galili who said that Israel stood ready to make a “new start” to achieve peace with Nasser’s successors. Israelis generally received news of Nasser’s death with indifference. He was heartily disliked by the man-in-the-street and widely regarded as Israel’s number one enemy. But in East Jerusalem, some 4,000 Arab youths and adults demonstrated violently and had to be dispersed with fire hoses after they stoned police. Thirty were arrested. In Gaza, troops used firearms to disperse violent demonstrators. An Arab woman was hit. West Bank Arabs began three days of mourning. The Nablus municipality organized a representative delegation of West Bankers to attend Nasser’s funeral which will take place in Cairo on Thursday. Shops in Arab villages and towns were closed. In Shefar Am, in Upper Galilee, Arab students paraded with black flags. There were demonstrations in the Arab village of Talbe in central Israel. Israeli newspapers took a generally dim view of Middle East peace prospects following Nasser’s death. The English-language Jerusalem Post observed that “despite his enmity, Nasser offered Israel a hope, however slight, which was afforded by no other Arab leader–that of a man strong enough to lead the Arab world to peace.”

Haaretz said that “at first glance one might think that Nasser’s death will make Israel’s situation easier; but no one can know this for certain. It is not impossible that the Soviets will try to turn Egypt into the first Popular Democracy in the Near East.” Davar said that “Years will pass before an Arab leader appears who enjoys the same prestige as Nasser. His successor will have to show great talent to overcome the political disintegration of Egypt. It is doubtful whether Nasser’s successor will be able to prevent the open or concealed rise of the military to political power.” Lamerhav noted that President Nasser had “personified more than any other Arab personality the Arab war against Israel. But it is doubtful that his departure will lead to a reduction of Arab hatred of Israel. On the contrary, the leaders of the Arab states may now vie with each other to deepen that hatred.” Eulogies of President Nasser were published today in East Jerusalem’s two Arabic newspapers. One of them, El Anba, is edited by Jews; the other, El Kuds, is strongly anti-Israel but nevertheless is permitted by the government to publish.

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