Cabinet Trying to Heal Rift in Government over Issue of Return to Peace Talks
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Cabinet Trying to Heal Rift in Government over Issue of Return to Peace Talks

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The cabinet appeared today to be trying to mend a rift that has developed within the government on the issue of Israel’s return to the Jarring peace talks. According to reliable sources, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, supported by Deputy Premier Yigal Allon and a majority of their colleagues, favors Israel’s return to the stalled peace negotiations even without a correction of Egypt’s truce violations. Premier Golda Meir, Foreign Minister Abba Eban and other cabinet members are reportedly opposed, as a matter of principle, to any backtracking by Israel on the violations. The matter was discussed at today’s cabinet meeting, the first presided over by Premier Meir since her departure for the U.S. a month ago. Mrs. Meir returned to Israel Friday. She is expected to deliver a political report to the Knesset this week which will offer the parliament an opportunity to debate the issue of the Jarring talks. However, according to informed sources, she wants to have a united government behind her before she brings the matter before the Knesset and the Israeli public. According to an official announcement, the discussion begun at today’s cabinet session will be continued at its next session. “No proposals were made and no decisions were taken.” the announcement said. Mrs. Meir was reported to have briefed the cabinet on her talks with U.S., Canadian and British leaders during her recent tour. She was said to have expressed satisfaction with the truce extension with no time limit, on a basis of reciprocity.

Mrs. Meir reportedly remarked that there was no obstacle to resuming peace talks with Jordan under the auspices of Dr. Jarring because there was no problem of missiles on the Jordanian front. Secretary of State William P. Rogers met with Foreign Minister Abba Eban for an hour in New York yesterday. Foreign Ministry sources here said today that the U.S. had conveyed its hope that a way would be found to renew the Jarring talks within the framework of the American peace initiative but that no pressure has been exerted on Israel to return to the talks immediately. (According to reports from New York, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Eban agreed that the best way to achieve a Mideast settlement was through the Jarring talks. Mr. Eban said, however, that there were still obstacles and mentioned Egypt’s violation of the standstill cease-fire and last Thursday’s General Assembly resolution demanding Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories without a prior agreement on secure boundaries and lasting peace.) The Israel Government however no longer regards the American peace initiative as the motivating factor behind the extended cease-fire in the Suez Canal zone. As the Israelis see it the truce extension stems from the recommendation of the General Assembly which contained no special standstill conditions. According to the Israelis, this releases them, and the Egyptians as well, from any commitment to a standstill in the cease-fire zone.


That point was stressed by Gen. Dayan in a speech to the Engineers Club in Haifa yesterday in which he was also quoted as favoring Israel’s return to the Jarring talks without a correction of Egypt’s past truce violations. Official sources who insisted on anonymity claimed today that Gen. Dayan told the cabinet that his Haifa speech was misinterpreted. According to these sources, the Defense Minister said that his references to the Jarring talk were made in the context of Israel’s original acceptance of the American peace initiative which was a matter of heated debate with the Gahal faction last summer. That claim did not tally with the text of Gen. Dayan’s speech as it was broadcast over the radio or with the large extracts published in Israeli newspapers today. Most observers here believe that the “retraction” made in Gen. Dayan’s name by anonymous sources was intended to prevent the cabinet rift from becoming a public issue, Gen. Dayan, whose authority on military matters is unquestioned, stressed in his speech that Israel enjoyed military superiority over Egypt despite the missile build-up in the Suez truce zone. He said he was “for the Jarring talks because we want not only to end the war but to attain peace and there is no other way to peace than through talks with the other side, direct or indirect.” Observers here said that the omission from his speech of demands for removal of Soviet missiles from the Suez truce zone was hardly accidental.

Gen. Dayan admitted that Israel had to walk a very narrow path in its relations with the U.S. because of its urgent dependence on American military and diplomatic support. We must ensure ourselves of continued U.S. military supplies but at the same time we must be able to oppose American positions “on matters that are life and death for us.” he said. In that connection, Gen. Dayan noted that the “Rogers map still exists,” a reference to boundaries proposed by Secretary Rogers a year ago which Israel considers unacceptable. Nevertheless, Gen. Dayan hinted that Israel must be prepared to make some painful concessions in the interests of a lasting peace. “We have to take a plunge into some very cold water in order to reach a haven of peace,” he said. “There is a big and decisive iceberg floating in that water–the Soviet Union. She is a very active partner in our region; and there is another very un-pleasant block of ice–the Security Council resolution. And there is the attitude of our neighbors and the extent of their desire for peace. I am also prepared to say that the Rogers plan is not exactly heart-warming. But I want to end the war and that can be done only through talks.” In a speech on Friday, Gen. Dayan noted that Egypt said it would end the cease-fire if no progress was made in the Jarring talks after two months. Should they open fire, he said, “I would not like to be in their place…If they attempt to cross the canal they may meet Israeli armor which was not used since the Six-Day war.” he warned.


Gen. Dayan contends that Israel is sufficiently strong to cope with any dangers posed by Soviet missiles in the canal zone while pointing out that no progress can be made towards peace without talks. Gen. Dayan is said to have doubts that a peace settlement is likely to emerge from the indirect talks under Dr. Jarring but he prefers to negotiate with the Egyptians instead of shooting at them. He cites the inevitable casualties that Israel must suffer even while inflicting much heavier casualties on the Egyptians. He also takes note of the huge expenditure of materiel, pointing out that during the Egyptian war of attrition in 1969 and 1970, it was not unusual for Israel to fire a million rounds of ammunition in a single day. Mrs. Meir is said to oppose resumption of the Jarring talks without acknowledgment and correction of Egypt’s truce violations. However, her position is a matter of principle, not a rejection of Gen. Dayan’s assurances of Israel’s continued military superiority. Mrs. Meir and Mr. Eban are said to fear that if the Egyptians can get away with violating the truce agreement, their agreement on other matters would be worthless. Informed sources here believe however that Mrs. Meir may eventually be forced to modify her stand.

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