Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance said yesterday that the Middle East peace negotiations will bog down unless Israel accepts, at least in principle, the withdrawal of its forces from the West Bank of the Jordan River.
But Vance, calling the withdrawal "the most difficult of all the issues," said there had been no progress toward resolving it at the recent talks by Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers at Leeds Castle in Britain. He added that it remains to be seen whether any progress can be made during his follow-up mission to the Middle East early next month.
Saying that personal attacks are "not useful," Vance ducked the chance to comment substantively on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's charge that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is "the only obstacle" to peace in the Middle East. At the same time, the secretary of state criticized as "totally unfair" Sadat's verbal attack Saturday on former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg. Sadat called Goldberg a Zionist and claimed that "we wouldn't have suffered what we are suffering today" if President Carter had been in office at the time of the 1967 Middle East war and Goldberg had nod been at the U.N. at the time.
Speaking on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA), Vance said that Goldberg is "one of the finest public servants this country has ever had" and said that he acted "in a measured and balanced way" at Washington's direction in negotiating U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 in the aftermath of the 1967 war.
Resolution 242, which provides a territory-for-peace bargain concerning acres occupied by Israel in 1967, is "the cornerstone of our policy and the policy of others" in seeking a settlement of tag Arab-Israeli dispute, Vance said. He reiterated the U.S. view that this bargain applies to all fronts, and thus requires Israeli withdrawal to some extent from the West Bank in the context of an overall settlement.
Until Begin became prime minister in the spring of last year, Israeli governments had approved the principle of some withdrawal from the West Bank but strongly conditioned its nature and extent on the requirement for "secure and recognized boundaries," which is also set forth in Resolution 242. Reversing this stand, Begin has opposed any withdrawal from the West Bank, which he considers part of "the land of Israel" by historic right.
Vance said the security requirements of Israel in connection with a withdrawal from the West Bank are "fundamental" to the diplomatic bargain and drew guarded encouragement from the extensive discussion of this question at Leeds Castle last week. For the first time, the two sides went into detail about the elements of future Israeli security. "You cannot deal with this issue until you get down to the nuts and bolts," he said.
Vance took the opportunity of the television interview to set forth the Carter administration's case for lifting the U.S. arms embargo against Turkey imposed by Congress and refusing to lift the U.S. trade embargo against Rhodesia imposed in compliance with U.N. decisions. The Senate is scheduled to vote this week on both embargo questions, and both votes are expected to be close.
Concerning the strategic arms talks with the Soviet Union. Vance reported "slow and steady progress" despite the setback to relations caused by the trials of dissidents in the U.S.S.R. He said a summit meeting between Carter and Soviet President Leonid L. Brezhnev is important but "very unlikely" until there is a positive accomplishment such as a new strategic arms treaty.