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News Brief

December 23, 1971
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Whether or not the intermediary has in fact given up his demand for such an Israeli commitment could not be confirmed by the sources, however. It appears that a new formula is being sought, possibly in line with the American suggestion that Israel declare in advance of negotiations her willingness to withdraw. The Jarring mission has been deadlocked since February, when Egypt but not Israel agreed to an Israeli withdrawal commitment. Eban has asked the Arabs to face “reality” and try another approach to a solution, namely negotiation.

But sources said it was more logical at present to try to renew efforts for an interim agreement to reopen the Suez Canal than to renew the Jarring mission, which aims for an over-all settlement. A resumption of the American initiative for a canal pact appears to have already begun, and it is thought here that the return here next week of Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin, will be in that context.

In Cairo last night, however, the Egyptian press spokesman insisted there was “no basis” to the “stories” that Egypt had been approached by the US on a resumption of the canal initiative. The spokesman, Tahsin Bashir, said his government favored resumption of the Jarring mission as the best route to take now. He said Egypt was willing to give Dr. Jarring “reasonable” time to achieve “results” on the basis of the Assembly resolution. He thus softened Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s threat to take military action if Israel gave no withdrawal commitment by Dec. 31.

Egypt’s see-sawing position draws two interpretations from Israeli observers. Some say the support of Dr. Jarring is a smokescreen behind which Cairo is preparing a full-steam-ahead war effort. Others say the war cries, possibly leading to war itself, have a political aim: to put more pressure on Israel. They add that if Egypt were to accept resumption of the Jarring efforts, there would be a lessening of international tension and thus a lessening of political pressure on Israel. These differing interpretations suggest to some that the contradictory statements from Cairo are the result not of calculated diplomacy but of genuine confusion.

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