Saturday, July 31, 2010

40 years ago: Israeli cabinet splits after vote to accept U.S. peace proposal for the Middle East

On July 31, 1970, after a lengthy debate that precipitated a government split, Israel’s cabinet voted 17-6 to accept the Middle East peace proposal of U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers. The Rogers proposal, which had been submitted to the U.S.S.R., U.K., France, and the Middle East countries, was based on the United Nations resolution of November 1967, and called for a 90-day standstill cease-fire between Israel and Egypt and negotiations conducted by Gunnar Jarring, Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., who had previously tried to bring the two sides together. The Gahal party, which favoured retention of all Arab land taken in the Six-Day War in 1967, cast the six votes against the Rogers proposal, and quit the Israeli government of Prime Minister Golda Meir.

On July 23 Egyptian President Gamal Nasser returned from 19 days in the U.S.S.R. and accepted unconditionally a Middle East peace plan announced a month earlier by U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers. "We want peace, but peace is remote. We do not want war, but war is around us," Mr. Nasser said. He explained that he had reasoned that "we will be giving Israel the excuse to obtain more arms from the U.S. on the pretext that it wants peace while we want war" if "we do not answer the U.S." The next day Mr. Nasser went on television and radio to announce that the previous day’s Egyptian acceptance of the Middle East peace proposal of U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers was not qualified and not conditional.

On July 26 King Hussein of Jordan agreed to the Rogers proposal. Jordan stated that her position was "similar to Egypt’s," which was taken to mean that it, too, was unconditional. Syria rejected the formula, but informed sources believed the rejection was for propaganda purposes, noting that Egyptian President Gamal Nasser had spoken of Syrian agreement with his policy.

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