Knesset Debates Israel’s Policy on Syria; Parties Differ on Stand

Military action against Syria now or later was the topic of a debate in the Knesset (Parliament) here today, when the national legislature discussed the official statement made before the house last week by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol. He had called the Syrian border situation grave enough to indicate urgent preparedness, but warned that “if aggression continues, we shall react.”

The major partners in the Government coalition lauded the Government for its patience in the face of Syrian provocations and its determination to exhaust all political and diplomatic means in its attempts to restore tranquility on Israel’s northern borders. The differences voiced by those parties in the debate were only in nuances.

Speakers for the Mapai-Achdut Avodah alignment emphasized that there must be an end to patience and that the end was near. The left-wing Mapam members held that patience must be maintained “infinitely,” and warned that the time has not yet been reached for an Israeli reaction “by force.”

Members representing Gahal — the fusion of Herut and the Liberal Party — and those belonging to Rafi, the Israel Workers Party formed by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, disagreed. They charged the Government with “writing too many letters” to the United Nations Security Council. They insisted that military action constituted the only means of reaction against Syria and for bringing about border tranquility in the face of the Damascus Government’s definite and avowed policy of anti-Israeli aggression.

The opposition insisted that delay in moving to reprisal against Syria is “dangerous” because other Arab states might not be able to restrain the war-hungry elements in their countries if the Syrians go unpunished by Israel. The debate is to be continued next week, when the Premier is expected to report to Parliament on the outcome of the extraordinary session of the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, which is to open its sessions tomorrow.

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