JERUSALEM (Apr. 26)
Premier Levi Eshkol warned Syria once more today that Israel would know how to defend its interests and the lives of its citizens “efficiently and promptly.” Speaking at the annual students conference, the Premier stressed that Israel would never relinquish its rights to the slightest degree. He said “there will be no further concessions.” and added the warning that “those who think they can attack us and cross our borders without risk to themselves make a bitter mistake.”
He reiterated Israel’s aspirations for peace on its borders and voiced his determination to seek peaceful measures first in cases of tension. But if border tensions continued, he said, “we will not lag behind either in acquisition of military equipment, establishing military industries and forming military units.” He added that “great progress” had been achieved in Israel in this field in recent years and that Israel hoped to achieve the capacity to build heavy arms.
Many observers viewed the Premier’s speech as an indirect reply to a “warning” from the Soviet Union transmitted earlier today by Tass, the official Soviet news agency. The Tass statement referred to a diplomatic talk held some time ago in Moscow between Israeli Ambassador Katriel Katz and senior officials of the Soviet Foreign Ministry. The Soviet Union denounced Israeli use of air power against Syria and made public today the contents of a note handed to Mr. Katz demanding that Israel halt its “unconcealed military acts” against Syria. The target of the Soviet warning was assumed to be the April 7 clash in which Israeli jets shot down six Soviet-made Syrian MIG-21 jets.
The Soviet note released today declared that the Soviet Union considered the air clashes, which were blamed on Israel, as “fraught with danger” and pointedly noted that such battles occurred “near the Soviet border.” The Government also said that Israel had placed an “act of aggression before the world,” and condemned “uninterrupted aggressive acts by Israel against neighboring Arab countries.” The note declared that the Soviet Government “considers it necessary to warn the Israeli Government that the risky policy it has waged for several years against her neighbors is fraught with danger.”
Political sources expressed surprise at the “obvious leak” through Tass of the contents of the conversation held some time ago between Ambassador Katz and the Soviet Foreign Ministry officials. The sources noted that the Tass version did not present Israel’s views and arguments submitted by the Israeli envoy in the talks and thus the leakage constituted a strictly one-sided version of the issues.