NEW YORK (Dec. 14)
Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres said here last night that 10 Arab countries have signed $19 billion worth of arms deals since the Yom Kippur War, “half from the West and half from the East” which makes them, from the point of view of armaments, “larger than the NATO force” in Europe.
Peres also presented a detailed breakdown of the armed strength of the so-called confrontation states on Israel’s borders. But he assured the more than 2000 people attending the United Jewish Appeal Conference Dinner at the New York Hilton Hotel that while Israel does not underestimate this force “we can and shall repulse them.” Peres said that while he could not go into details, Israel possesses the strength to face the concentrated Arab power if necessary and “she will retain this ability for the foreseeable future.”
The Defense Minister also explained Israel’s rationale for refusing to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization under any circumstances and why it opposes the creation of a third state between Jordan and Israel. He also stated, in general terms, what Israel proposes to offer the Palestinians by way of compromise should they agree to recognize Israel and come to terms with it.
Peres, who is seeking to speed up U.S. arms deliveries to his country, conceded that Israel is dependent for military supplies on the U.S. but stressed that U.S. support of Israel is in America’s interest, “Without Israel, the U.S. would have fewer problems, but without Israel the Middle East and the Persian Gulf would already have become a Soviet arena and the free world would lose by being excluded from the area and by the area becoming a card in the Soviet deck,” Peres said.
POSITION ON PALESTINIAN PROBLEM EXPLAINED
Reiterating Israel’s view that a solution of the Palestinian problem can be achieved only through negotiations with Jordan, Peres noted that the PLO is not an elected body but a “coalition of armed factions who resort to violence.” He said it was impossible to negotiate with them because “matters agreed upon with (PLO chieftain Yasir) Arafat may not be accepted by (George) Habash or (Ahmed) Jabril, and vice versa.”
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Habash, and Jabril’s Popular Democratic Front are Marxist-oriented extremist terrorist groups that broke away from the PLO. Peres stressed that the PLO does not recognize Israel and wants to destroy it and even if Israel recognized the PLO “it is highly theoretical that the PLO would recognize Israel.”
A Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan potentially “carries with it a Lebanese-like tragedy.” Peres said, and would place Soviet missiles within 10-15 miles from the heart of Israel.
He said that when the Arabs show they are ready for compromise, Israel would offer them two fundamental options: “an agreement in the European style between us and Jordan which will enable the Palestinian people to retain their identity without cutting the land into impossible pieces or a federation in which every citizen will enjoy equal rights and every people will enjoy the right to be different.” Peres did not elaborate on these proposals.
MILITARY STRENGTH OF THE ARABS
According to the Israeli defense chief, “Those Arab states which confront Israel have today 22 armored divisions; 40 tank brigades; 8100 tanks; 4800 artillery pieces; about 1000 ground-to-ground missiles; 1980 attack aircraft; 150 helicopters; 200 batteries of ground-to-air missiles; 12 submarines; 12 destroyers; 65 airfields and 22 naval bases on the Mediterranean and Read Seas.” He said they have under arms a combined total of 1.5 million men or “for every man, boy and child in Israel there is one Arab soldier.”
Peres called on the Jewish people to show Israel that it has “a people it can depend upon.” He said the future “will require the Jewish people to dedicate even greater material means; in Israel in the form of taxes and here (the U.S.) in the form of donations to minimize our dependence and enhance our independence.” Peres will be in Washington this week where he is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “to present the up-to-date and accurate situation in the Middle East.” He also has speaking engagements in Dallas and Baltimore.
Appearing today on CBS “Face The Nation” program, Peres said that Israel would be prepared to give up most of the Arab territory it occupied in 1967 “if we get a meaningful peace or an end of the state of belligerency.” He also said his country probably would boycott the Security Council’s Middle East debate on Jan. 12 to which the Palestine Liberation Organization has been invited, because Israel would have nothing to gain from it. Peres defended Israel’s Dec. 2 air raids on terrorist strongholds in Lebanon, saying they were justified because of the build-up of arms and personnel at those bases which posed a direct threat to Israel.
UJA CAMPAIGN FOR 1976
Frank R. Lautenberg, who was re-elected general chairman of the UJA, told the UJA conference dinner audience that the 1976 UJA campaign for $600 million “is the renewal of a very special process: to share in the responsibility for the destiny of our people… When anti-Semitism is given credence in the forum of the family of nations, the very existence of our people is being threatened. Our response in the year ahead will be the greatest show of strength and unity in the history of American Jewish fund-raising.”
The theme of the two-day conference was “Proclaim Liberty” from the Leviticus verse inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, “Our sense of unity in the face of attack and our dedication to individual freedom will combine to make our campaign in this bicentennial year an act of affirmation.” Lautenberg declared. “For wherever Jewish people inhabit this earth, we are bound together by remembering, by tradition, by faith, by our refusal to succumb to indifference…by our affirmation of life.”
Irving Bernstein was re-elected as the UJA’s executive vice-chairman a post he has held since 1971. Elie Wiesel was presented the UJA’s first annual David Ben Gurion Award. The dinner concluded two days of intensive briefings on Jewish overseas needs, campaign workshops and lectures and seminars of contemporary and historical Jewish issues, during which American Jewish community leaders from every part of the country developed the program and strategy of the 1976 UJA fund-raising campaign.