JERUSALEM (May. 27)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin, evidently buoyed by what he said was an overall improvement in Israel’s political position in recent weeks, lined up tonight with the “hawkish” elements of his Labor Alignment who support the government’s refusal to offer further territorial concessions without commensurate Arab commitments to non-belligerency.
In a speech that marked the end of a three-week marathon debate between “hawks” and “doves” in the Labor Alignment’s leadership and Knesset faction, Rabin vigorously defended his government’s refusal to come forth unilaterally at this time with a definitive overall peace plan, including maps delineating Israel’s future borders.
Such a move by Israel had been urged by former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, veteran Mapam leaders Meir Talmi and Yaacob Hazan, and others who maintained that it was up to Israel to take the initiative to break the present negotiations impasse, especially in light of its strained relations with the United States.
But Rabin asserted flatly that Israel would never return to its pre-June 1967 borders and warned that if his government drafted a precise peace program at this time, what Israel offered as its maximal concessions would be taken by the Arabs as nothing more than an initial bargaining position that could be whittled down.
BROAD OUTLINE OF FUTURE FRONTIERS
Rabin, who will have his fateful summit meeting with President Ford in Washington a little more than two weeks from now, drew no maps but in effect presented a broad outline of future frontiers from which he indicated that Israel will never retreat. He said that Israel would insist on a permanent presence in Sinai of a yet undetermined depth but which must include a land link to Sharm el-Sheikh at the southeastern tip of the peninsula.
Rabin pledged that Israel would never “descend” from the Golan Heights. Though he did not specify to what depth Israel would remain on the Heights, he indicated that the future boundaries would be determined by existing Israeli settlements on the Golan. “We did not set up the settlements there in order to take them down again,” Rabin told the Alignment members.
He said that on the West Bank, Israel had proposed a settlement based roughly on the so-called Allon plan, drafted by the present Foreign Minister Yigal Allon shortly after the 1967 Six-Day War, which envisioned retention of a strip along the Jordan River and autonomy for the Arab populated regions of the West Bank. He said that proposal and alternative “functional” arrangements were all rejected by Jordan.
STANDING UP TO PRESSURE
Analyzing events that followed the collapse of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s efforts to promote an Israeli-Egyptian second-stage agreement in Sinai last March, Rabin said Israel had achieved a major success by demonstrating that it could stand up to pressure. He said the Arabs should have learned a lesson from this.
The Premier rejected the “fears and dark prophesies of some soothsayers” and declared that Israel’s political position had improved of late. He was referring apparently to last week’s letter from 76 Senators urging Ford to reaffirm America’s commitment to economic and military support for Israel and Israel’s new trade agreement with the European Common Market which was concluded despite bitter protests and threats from the Arab states.
Observers believe Rabin feels that, armed with the strong statement of support from an overwhelming majority of U.S. Senators, he can meet with Ford in a position to withstand Administration pressure for concessions by Israel. He is said to believe that the Administration will be more circumspect in applying pressure on Israel in view of Congressional sentiment. Consequently, observers say, Rabin will offer no new “ideas” prior to Ford’s meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Salzburg, Austria this weekend, and that the next move toward renewed negotiations will have to come from Egypt.
SPLIT BETWEEN ‘HAWKS’ AND ‘DOVES’
Nevertheless, it was clear after the debate, that Israel’s governing Labor Alignment is fairly evenly split between “hawks” and “doves.” During the course of the debate, 14 Labor and Mapam leaders spoke out for large-scale territorial withdrawals and an overall peace plan, Sixteen ministers and Knesset members spoke in defense of the government’s position.
One government spokesman, Minister of Commerce and Industry Haim Barlev, a former army Chief of Staff, said today that the differences over the Golan Heights and Sinai were mere “nuances,” The main division within the Alignment, he said, was over the West Bank and Israel’s future eastern borders. He said that he himself backed the view that the Jordan River must remain Israel’s security frontier, policed by Israeli forces.
Barlev said that subject to this condition, arrangements should be made to ensure that the large bulk of the West Bank’s Arab population remains outside of the Jewish State. Barlev stressed that no Arab state was prepared to consider anything less than total withdrawal and for that reason Israel has no cause to draft its peace plan now. “The day for Israel to take decisions is the morning after the first Arab leader says he agrees to territorial compromise,” Barlev said.