TEL AVIV (Aug. 14)
Israel’s Chief of Staff Gen. Yitzhak Rabin said here that Syria was trying to mislead world opinion with her recent unusually conciliatory behavior in exchanging prisoners and her half-hearted attempts at reaching some kind of border agreement.
Addressing a group of graduates of an Israel Army staff and command course, Gen. Rabin declared that the truth is that the Syrians are now engaged in training El Fatah gangs as part of their “popular war” plans against Israel. He added that the Syrians knew that they did not have a chance in a direct confrontation with Israel and they were understandably eager to avoid any such showdown.
Gen. Rabin said that one way Syria sought to avoid retaliation was to have gangs operate out of neighboring Arab countries. This purpose could be served even better if Syria could impress upon the world that she is a peace-loving nation as demonstrated by her recent conciliatory gestures, he declared.
With respect to their plans for a “popular war,” Gen. Rabin said that “the Arabs do not always carry out what they threaten to do. But we cannot rely on this. We will continue to hold responsible any country permitting gangs to operate from its territory. On the other hand, we will continue to regard Syria as though the gangs were operating directly from Syrian bases,” he warned.
At the same time, he said, “Israel should not disregard any sincere peaceful gestures, no matter how slight, provided this does not in any way reduce the deterrent power of our defense forces, Israel’s very survival and peace along the borders will hinge on the might of its armed forces,” he declared.