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Eshkol Warns Syria Directly: Halt Attacks or Face Israeli Actions

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Premier Levi Eshkol said today that Israel was ready to sign immediately a non-aggression pact with Syria. But he warned at the same time that, if “murderous attacks and acts of sabotage continue” from Syrian sources, “we will act to halt them.” He made these statements in a speech to the opening winter term of Israel’s Parliament, reporting on Israel’s foreign affairs and security situation. His address lasted two hours.

Mr. Eshkol made a direct appeal to Syria, declaring that Israel was not concerned with the nature of Syria’s regime or its internal affairs. He added: “We are ready for peace at once, but our patience has a limit. If murderous attacks and acts of sabotage continue, we will act to end them, according to our views and choosing our own time. We are not preparing to attack Syria, “he said, referring to charges to that effect from both Arab and Soviet sources. “Our policy is not dictated by any foreign factor. Our only concern is to protect the lives and security of our citizens.”

He began his address with an outline of Israel-Arab relations since the signing of the armistice agreements in 1949. Since 1965, he said, there had been some 60 acts of sabotage perpetrated against Israel, which were instigated by Syria, “which trains and maintains the saboteur organization, El Fatah.” He said El Fatah was made up of hired killers and hardened criminals, who sometimes came directly from Syria and sometimes via other Arab countries, “but their actions are always traceable to Damascus.”

DENIES SYRIAN AND SOVIET CHARGES OF ‘PLOT’ AGAINST DAMASCUS REGIME

Mr. Eshkol asserted that Syrian official statements in Damascus confirmed Syrian backing of the guerrillas “unequivocally,” although their representatives at the United Nations “talk a less courageous language and disclaim responsibility.” He rejected Syrian and Soviet charges of an “imperialist plot” against Syria, declaring heatedly that “it isn’t the regime in Syria that is bothering us, but our own dead and wounded.” He emphasized that Israel remained faithful to its basic aim of peace.

The Premier said that, lately, there had been signs in the Arab world of progress toward abandonment of the idea of war as a solution to the conflicts of the region. However, he added, he would not make any forecasts as to the pace of such “stirrings.” He said Israel could not rely on them.

The Prime Minister cited the “unremitting” Arab rearmament, and said that Israel had no choice but to maintain military readiness and to bolster its deterrent power. He added Israel would “continue efforts to convince those who wish us ill that aggression will not pay. There are other means, such as direct negotiations, which could lead to peace and cooperation of benefit to all the peoples in the area.”

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