TIBERIAS, Israel (Aug. 20)
Calm reigned today along the newest extension of the Iron Curtain–the Israel-Syrian border. Vacationers disported themselves in the sun here today and swam in Lake Tiberias. Farmers continued to work their land right up to the frontier, displaying little concern over the fact that the Soviet Empire now stretched almost to their doorsteps.
The new extension of the Iron Curtain was still far from a completely solid and impenetrable wall. Relatively free movement continued today between Syria and its Arab neighbors – The Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Some points remained open along the long and twisting Israel-Syrian border for passage by the white jeeps of the United Nations Truce Observation Organization.
No unusual troop movements were reported along the border today and there was a general belief that the border would now remain quiescent for some time to come. But there was no reason to doubt that the Israel Army, on first reports of the Syrian coup, had made all the necessary dispositions to meet any developments that might arise.
NEW RULERS NEED TIME TO CONSOLIDATE POSITIONS
The reasons for the belief that the border situation would remain quiet were that the new controlling junta in Syria would require time to consolidate its position and entrench Communist rule and that the apparent resolution of the internal power struggle in favor of the Communist group made new foreign adventures unnecessary.
(It was reported from Tel Aviv today that news received here of the arrest of Col. Elazem, Syrian commander along the Israel border, had given rise to apprehensions of renewed Syrian border provocations.
(Israel authorities indicated today that they were not prepared to comply with a United Nations truce observation force request that they agree to an increase in the number of UN observers stationed in the four UN observation posts on Israel territory along the Israel-Syrian border.)
CONTINUED QUIET SEEN DEPENDENT ON MOSCOW
A JTA correspondent visited the border settlement of Gonen in northernmost Israel, where Israel territory projects into Syria and is surrounded by Syria on three sides. Gonen was the scene of the most recent Syrian aggressions – aggressions which coincided with the climax of the desperate internal power struggle in Damascus which preceded the Communist coup. Gonen and the surrounding areas were quiet today. How long this quiet might continue probably depended, not on Damascus, but on Moscow. No one was prepared today to predict the next Soviet moves, but there were two general lines of speculation.
If, with the Syrian coup, Moscow aimed at ensuring recognition of the Soviet presence in the Middle East in the event of a general East-West settlement, Russia’s primary interest would be to dig in Syria, fortifying its gains and creating a fait accompli. If, however – according to the second line of speculation- the Soviet rulers intended to continue to expand their area of influence and domination, then support of new Syrian provocation of Israel might be a means towards such end.
In the opinion of many informed observers, Western influence in the Kingdom of Jordan could not be maintained for long if Syria remained under Communist influence. They said today that as soon as the situation in Syria was consolidated, the struggle for domination in Jordan would be resumed.
Observers commented today that if Israel had not been prepared to stand by and see Jordan partitioned among pro-Communist countries, it would certainly not stand by if an outright Communist country tried to take over the kingdom, thus increasing Israel’s frontier with the Soviet Empire tenfold.
They expressed the hope, however, that if Israel were constrained to move under such conditions, the Western Powers would show more understanding of any possible Israel defense action.