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Tekoah: USSR Main Obstacle to Mideast Peace; Calls for Calm Assessment, Closing of Ranks

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Yosef Tekoah declared today that however vehement Arab refusal to recognize Israel’s right to peace and security may be at this time, eventual peace between Israel and its neighbors could be achieved were it not for the Soviet Union’s new and menacing involvement in the region. Mr. Tekoah painted a grim picture of the Russian presence in the Mideast and its ramifications in the course of an address at the commencement exercises at Yeshiva University here. The Israeli diplomat called for unity among the Jews and their unswerving support for Israel. “This is not the hour for self-recrimination but for calm, reasoned assessment,” he said. “The situation is fraught with the gravest dangers. It calls for the closing of ranks, for realism of thought and resoluteness of action. In times of stress.” Mr. Tekoah said, “man has been known to find fault with those closest to him and to blame them for his difficulties. This is a weakness we can ill afford today. The voices which say that the Government of Israel might have done more to end the Middle East conflict emanate from ignorance or from evil. Ever since independence, not a stone has been left unturned to reach understanding and peace with our neighbors.”

Mr. Tekoah said “Tenuous as the chances are to bring about, in the near future, a change in the Arab attitude toward definitive peace with Israel, they are completely undermined by Moscow’s present policies and activities…The question is how far does the USSR intend to extend its military involvement? Are there any limits beyond which Moscow would not move?” The Israeli diplomat said that for years the assumption had been that the Soviet Union would not send military personnel outside the Communist bloc. “All these considerations belong to the past. Moscow has broken with its traditional attitude. It has taken the unprecedented step of dispatching Soviet military contingents to the Middle East. The size of these contingents and the extent of their operations has thus become primarily a problem of tactics. The principle has been established. Its application requires less difficult a decision.” Mr. Tekoah asserted that the determining factor would be the reaction of the great powers, primarily the United States. “The Soviet Union remains vitally interested in avoiding a direct confrontation with the United States he said. “It would not consciously undertake any step that might bring it into such a confrontation… Moscow will be watching the United States most carefully and any sign of weakness will be exploited to expand Soviet military participation in the hostilities.”

He warned that the Soviet Union “is doing all it can to full American alertness, to confuse American concern regarding Soviet activities, to blunt America’s reaction.” “Firmness today,” the Israeli Ambassador declared, “will diminish the dangers of additional Soviet military moves and their repercussions for Israel and the United States. Weakness will increase them.” Mr. Tekoah warned that formulas for a settlement arrived at between the Great Powers at this time must inevitably reflect the impact of Soviet military involvement “and be based on accommodations with the USSR at Israel’s expense.” He claimed that the Soviet Union has already “whittled away” the West’s position regarding the terms of an Arab-Israeli settlement. “Even if (Soviet) military involvement is curbed, it will undoubtedly use its very existence to try and extort further concessions in the Four Power and Two Power talks.” Mr. Tekoah said that Israel would not surrender its vital interests and basic rights to Soviet military pressure “or to political formulas bearing the imprint of Moscow’s designs against Israel.” However, he said, “We cannot delude ourselves. We must see reality as it is. We cannot shrink from the conclusion that unless there is a radical transformation in the Arab attitude and unless Soviet military involvement ceases, the present conflict will be with us for an indefinite period. We cannot avoid preparing ourselves for such an indefinite continuation of our struggle.”

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