Vice President Walter Mondale’s visit to Israel was to some extent overshadowed today by a statement from President Carter Pledging America’s own “compromise proposals” soon and referring to the Geneva framework as an available “fallback position” if Washington’s mediation efforts ultimately fail. The statement, issued by the White House yesterday following a Friday briefing for out-of-town editors, sent shivers down Israeli spines, especially the last reference to a possible reversion to Geneva.
Mondale himself told Knesset speaker Yitzhak Shamir this morning that the statement did not represent any change in U.S. policy thinking on the Mideast. Sources close to the Vice President indicated that the White House statement had taken them as much by surprise as it had the Israelis. But seasoned observers here did not entirely “buy” that. They believe that Carter’s statement was carefully worded and deliberately timed to coincide with the start of Mondale’s substantive talks here. It was intended, these observers said, to pose the stark choice, before both Israel and Egypt, of drawing closer together or facing the prospect of the eventual collapse of President Anwar Sadat’s peace initiative.
NEW U.S. DIPLOMATIC THRUST SEEN
Mondale is to fly to Alexandria tomorrow for a meeting with Sadat before returning home via the Azores. (The Jewish dignitaries accompanying him will fly straight to the Azores aboard the backup plane and await him there.) Observers here felt the Carter statement put the Mondale mission into proper perspective: as the spearhead of a new U.S. diplomatic thrust towards injecting new momentum in the stalled peace process. According to the scenario for the weeks ahead, mapped out by the American President, Mondale’s discussions with Israel and Egypt are to be followed by the submission by Egypt of a counter-proposal With two peace plans then on the table, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance will convene a Foreign Ministers conference to consider the “compatibilities and incompatibilities” of the two positions, and then to lay down compromise proposals formulated by the U.S. with a view to bridging the gaps.
Carter’s statement was the first unequivocal top-level American undertaking to come forward at last with specific American compromise proposals, although that possibility has been in the air now for several months. Carter added that if the compromise proposals also failed to draw the two sides towards a settlement there could be a recourse back to Geneva. This remark–the first reference by the U.S. leader to the possibility of the failure of Sadat’s peace initiative and a revival of Geneva since November 1977–is seen here as on application of psychological persuasion to both sides.
Neither Israel nor Egypt is at all enthusiastic about the prospect of reviving Geneva because that would entail the active involvement of the Soviet Union and the hardline Syrians again. Indeed, Sadat has often explained that he was prompted to launch his solo peace effort by the realization that Syria was stymying peace hopes with Soviet backing. And Israeli leaders have said for years that at Geneva the Arabs would almost inevitably adopt the position of the most extremist among them. Therefore, the President’s interjection of Geneva at this stage, even as a far off possibility, is plainly intended to spur both Jerusalem and Cairo towards new concessions, observers here feel.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.