• U.S.

Middle East: Christmas Shopping

3 minute read

So determined is Israel to nail down assurances of U.S. support before entering peace negotiations with the Arabs that Washington often grows downright uneasy. As Premier Golda Meir told a Labor Party rally in Tel Aviv last week, U.S. Ambassador Walworth Barbour recently said to her: “Look here, Mrs. Meir, we’ve established that Israel is not a satellite of the U.S. Now I think we ought to make it clear that the U.S. is not a satellite of Israel.” With a smile, Golda told the party members: “I had no choice but to agree.”

To emphasize its independence, Washington last week served as a scrupulously impartial host to distinguished visitors from both sides. In visits that barely missed overlapping, Jordan’s King Hussein and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan called at the White House and met Secretary of State William Rogers and Defense Secretary Melvin Laird. Both visitors stressed their willingness to join the peace talks to be held under the aegis of United Nations Mediator Gunnar Jarring. Each, however, arrived with a shopping list of military items, should the talks fail to get off the ground.

Land or Peace. Hussein was received with particular warmth because three months ago he spared the U.S. a difficult decision. When a Syrian armored force invaded Jordan to aid Palestine guerrillas in their battle with the King’s army, both the U.S. Sixth Fleet and Israeli forces were poised to intervene on Hussein’s side. But the King’s tanks and planes repelled the Syrians. The U.S., which is already acting on a $30 million allotment to re-equip the Jordanian army, listened to requests by Hussein for additional equipment that could bring the bill to $200 million.

Hussein also asked the U.S. not to back down on its stand that Israel must “substantially” withdraw from occupied territories. “Israel must choose land or peace,” the King told the National Press Club. “She cannot have both.” He agreed, however, thai “if there is a need, we would conceivably accept minor rectifications on a reciprocal basis.”

Dayan, making the same rounds, was unexpectedly subdued. He stressed that Israel is prepared to re-enter the Jarring talks before the cease-fire expires in February. The talks will be based on a 1967 Security Council resolution that calls for both a return of territory captured in the Six-Day War as well as the establishment of secure borders. What Dayan wanted was U.S. reassurance that it would veto any Russian attempt to introduce a new resolution stressing only territories. Washington was noncommittal, but did indicate that it is ready to fill an Israeli shopping list that runs to $500 million in military aid over the next two years. The list is so detailed that Laird, only half kidding, has declared: “These guys want stuff I never even heard of.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com