JERUSALEM (Dec. 3)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s candid views of the situation Israel faces now and in the future were presented to the Israeli public today. In what some observers termed the most important statement he has made since becoming Premier, the former Army Chief of Staff and Ambassador to the U.S. told his fellow citizens frankly that Israel faces “seven lean years” and its future depends on whether it can emerge from them unscathed.
He said it would take that long for the effects of the Arab oil weapon to be overcome in the United States and Western Europe and until then it would continue to affect the international political situation.
Rabin also said that Israel now has six weeks to decide what price it is willing to pay to gain time through a further accord with Egypt. In six weeks from now, Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev will visit Cairo, and Rabin stressed that it was in Israel’s vital interest to keep Egypt from falling once more into the Soviet camp.
FRANK TALK ON RELATIONS WITH U.S., JEWS
Rabin, who held Israel’s key ambassadorial post in Washington for five years, spoke frankly of his nation’s relations with the U.S. and its partnership with American Jews. He acknowledged that President Ford, vitally concerned over the success of his economic policies in the next two years, was interested in avoiding a crisis with the Arab oil producing states.
In that connection Rabin warned that it did no good to exaggerate the power of American Jewry. He said it was neither wise nor tactful to forever be “calling on American Jewry” as urged by the Likud every time Israel faced a crisis. He said American Jewish political power would be weakened by the new election campaign financing laws following the Watergate scandal.
Rabin remarked that Gen George S. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was one of Israel’s strongest sympathizers and said that Israelis must beware of creating a situation in which the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic allegations such as Brown made recently become the rule rather than the exception.
The Premier expressed these and other views in a lengthy interview with Haaretz correspondent Yoel Marcus, published today. He indicated a greater degree of flexibility than heretofore in. Israel’s position on a second stage agreement with Egypt and some observers suggested that Rabin’s remarks on that subject were aimed as much to Cairo as to the Israeli public.
Rabin said for the first time, publicly, that the next stage of an Israeli-Egyptian agreement might well be military in form but would contain important political content in the form of quiet Egyptian undertakings to the U.S. In that connection he noted that Egypt has kept all the undertakings it gave to Washington last January when the first disengagement agreement was concluded.
WAR WITH SYRIA A REAL POSSIBILITY
Rabin did not repeat earlier Israeli demands for a formal declaration of “non-belligerency” by Egypt in return for a further disengagement pact but indicated that Israel would not rule out military demarche if accompanied by substantive political undertakings made confidentially to the U.S. Israeli officials in the past have given as examples of political undertakings an end to the economic boycott; access by Israeli ships and cargoes to the Suez Canal; and a scaling down of political warfare against Israel.
Rabin said that if an additional accord could be reached with Egypt. Israel would be in a substantially better position in the event of a new war with Syria. He indicated that war with Syria was a “real possibility” in 1975. “The question is will Syria launch a new war with Egypt as her partner in planning, execution and enthusiasm, or with Egypt dragged in. unwilling and perhaps not fully prepared? If Syria begins the war alone, without concomitant Egyptian martial enthusiasm, this would leave us at least in the crucial early days with only one front to fight on.” Rabin said.
But the Premier stressed that Israel was not prepared to pay any price for a new disengagement accord with Egypt. He said that Israel would insist that the Egyptian army does not move into areas vacated by Israeli forces. The strategic Mitle and Gidi passes must remain in Israel’s hands and there must be no actual changes on the ground until the mandates of UN forces on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts are renewed again, and for a longer period than the present six months, Rabin said.
He conceded that negotiations with Egypt could lead to strains in Israel’s relations with the U.S. “We must walk on tiptoe through the next year,” the Premier said. “If we reach 1976 successfully, we shall have gained not one year but two.” he added in an apparent reference to the next American Presidential election.