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Israel Ready to Follow 1949 Rhodes Precedents in Negotiating with Arabs

February 28, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Official sources made it clear today that Israel is prepared to follow the precedent of face-to-face confrontation established at the 1949 Rhodes armistice talks in future peace negotiations with the Arabs but would never agree to meetings at which a third party served as go-between. The support of a Rhodes-type meeting with the Arabs followed Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s declaration in the Knesset (Parliament) yesterday that “by agreeing to a form of negotiation which the Arab governments have utilized in the past, we have made a maximal contribution toward advancing the international peace mission” of Ambassador Gunnar Jarring, the United Nations special envoy.

The sources noted that the Rhodes armistice talks with Egypt 19 years ago were not “a separate tables affair” even in their initial stages and that the talks with Jordan on the Greek island were a there formality because an armistice had previously been worked out between King Abdullah and Israeli emissaries, including Gen. Moshe Dayan, at Shuni, in Jordan. Although the Israeli and Arab delegations lived on separate floors of their Rhodes hotel and did not sit together, the liaison officers of both sides held continuous direct talks.

(A writer in the Communist Party newspaper Izvestia accused Israel of trying to use the Jarring peace mission to the Middle East for its own purposes, as a result of which the mission is deadlocked. The article, by Victor Kudryavtsev, alleged that “under the pretence of willingness to conduct negotiations on a settlement of the conflict, Tel Aviv is not averse to turning Jarring’s mission into an instrument of its demand for direct negotiations with each of the Arab states separately. These cunning tactics are being combined with attempts to disrupt the anti-imperialist unity of the Arab countries.”)

(In Paris, the independent daily Le Monde hailed Mr. Eban’s statement in the Knesset (Parliament) yesterday and said it constituted a breach of the impasse in the Middle East, giving cause for “prudent optimism.”)

It was stressed here, however, that the main question was not Israel’s readiness to meet the Arabs on Cyprus or even in Cairo or Amman but how the Arabs will react. The answer, some believe, may be given by Ambassador Jarring who is due here today on his 11th visit to Jerusalem.

Considerable surprise was expressed here over the clamor that was touched off in diplomatic circles and in the foreign press over the possibility of an Arab-Israel meeting on Cyprus. Official circles pointed out that there is nothing new in the proposal which was made by Prime Minister Eshkol on his visit to the United States last month. He said at the time that Israel would be willing to meet the Arabs anywhere and had no objection to a U.N. representative sitting in at the meetings as a chairman. The matter was raised with Ambassador Jarring, However, it was stressed here, any interpretation that Israel would agree to a meeting at which the Arabs and Israelis sat in separate rooms while Dr. Jarring shuttled between them, was erroneous.


Ambassador Jarring had a long talk with Mr. Eban in Jerusalem this afternoon and then left for New York for his meeting with Secretary General U Thant tomorrow. Informed sources said that “nothing concrete” had emerged from today’s talk. Mr. Jarring is expected to be back in the Middle East in about a week’s time to resume his shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem. Amman and Cairo.

Diplomatic sources here said that the fact Dr. Jarring would go back to his “circuit-riding” was an indication that there had been no understanding between Israel and Egypt on any kind of direct or indirect talks. They asserted that there had been no exchange in which the UN envoy asked Israel and Egypt to answer yes or no.

It was predicted here that following Ambassador Jarring’s visit to UN headquarters in New York, Mr. Thant would make a report to the Security Council which would be largely technical in nature and discuss the substance of his talks with both sides only in general terms.

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