Rabin: Israel Will Not Be Another Czechoslovakia; Will Engage Soviet Pilots if Attacked

Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States warned last night that “Israel will not be another Czechoslovakia” and will not hesitate to engage Soviet pilots if attacked. He charged the Soviet Union with being responsible for continued war in the Middle East–with persistently interfering with signs of Arab willingness to move toward peace. At an evening session of the four-day annual meeting of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, Ambassador Rabin declared that Israel does not wish a situation to arise “in which Soviet pilots or gunners will be in a position to engage our forces, but if they do, if we are attacked, we will be obliged to protect our freedom, our security and our independence, come what may.”

Ambassador Rabin said that by “assuming an actual combatant role in the Mideast conflict” the Soviet Union has made itself “a direct and active military partner in the policy of aggression against Israel.” Asserting that he did not know at what point the Soviet Union intended to draw the line, Mr. Rabin said that “those who decided on direct Soviet involvement are surely aware that the people of Israel will defend themselves.” Noting that Israel is celebrating the 22nd anniversary of its independence, Ambassador Rabin said that Israeli leaders in 1948 had declared the new state’s willingness “to make its contribution in a concerted effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” He called it “overly simplistic” to say that there is no peace in the Mideast because “our neighbors don’t want us.” Mr. Rabin observed there have been times when the Arabs have “shown a readiness to grapple with the realities of our existence” and said it was a “tragedy that these seeds of realism of acceptance were never allowed to germinate” because of Soviet intervention.

Ambassador Rabin charged the Soviet Union with ruthlessly choosing and exploiting the Israeli-Arab dispute “as the vehicle to enhance Russian expansionist ambitions in the Middle East at the expense of all of us in the area.” He stated that Russia is “no longer content to pursue its ambitions by proxy” and is actively participating in the air defense of Egypt. “This is an unprecedented step and it is an aggressive one,” the Ambassador declared. The Soviet Union, he asserted, “has drastically and adversely shifted the balance of forces” against Israel and if Russian expansionism is to be contained “this imbalance must be corrected…now.” Mr. Rabin declared that to deprive Israel now of the planes and other arms needed would not only impair that country’s defensive strength militarily but “would strengthen Soviet boldness and ambition politically.”

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