JERUSALEM (Jan. 17)
A somber Premier Levi Eshkol told Israel’s Parliament today that the next few days would show whether the United Nations and the major powers could stop Syrian aggression but that “if aggression continues, we shall react.”
He called the border situation created by almost daily Syrian incidents for the past three weeks “grave and demanding preparedness.” He also emphasized that Israel was still willing to employ all existing political means before resorting to its defensive and deterrent power.
The Premier then listed the various recent incidents, including mining of Israeli roads and a football field, shelling by tanks, firing across the armistice lines and infiltration and sabotage. He cited a Security Council resolution, approved by all major powers but vetoed by the Soviet Union last November, which called on Syria to act to bar use of its territory for raids into Israel, Despite the Soviet veto, the border was quiet thereafter for seven weeks, the Premier noted, “but now full-scale attacks have been resumed by the Syrians.
The Premier took issue with the appeal by United Nations Secretary-General U Thant, who called Sunday on both Israel and Syria to refrain from military acts that might lead to large-scale clashes. The Premier said that appeal had been directed equally to Israel, which was being attacked, and to Syria, which was the attacker. He said U Thant’s appeal was regarded with “astonishment” by Israel.
The Premier also asserted that Thant did not mention the reason for the border tension, “Syrian aggression and especially acts of sabotage inside Israel directed against its civilian population.” The Knesset will debate the Premier’s statement next week.
SEE ESHKOL IN CROSSFIRE OF DOMESTIC AND WORLD PRESSURES
Political observers said that the Premier’s speech indicated Israel would try once again to exhaust all international and political procedures before acting to assure its “legitimate right to defend its territory and lives of its citizens” by military measures.
The Premier’s speech reflected the impact of two opposing pressures; that of Israeli public opinion which increasingly demands strong and immediate action to halt Syrian incidents, and that brought to bear by international forces, particularly U Thant.
Israel has therefore agreed to U Thant’s appeal to meet with Syria in so extraordinary session of the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, If that meeting, for which neither a date nor place has yet been set, fails, the observers said, it was clear from the Premier’s statement that “Syria will not be allowed to run amok.” It was agreed that what U Thant’s intervention has brought about was a few days of respite and the observers stressed that the border had been relatively calm for the last 48 hours.