TEL AVIV (Dec. 28)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin declared last night that Israel’s immediate target for 1976 must be to thwart the Syrian-Soviet diplomatic offensive at the United Nations and press toward a reconvened Geneva conference in the hope of reaching a general peace settlement with all of Israel’s Arab neighbors. But the Premier stressed that as of this moment, no Arab state is ready to negotiate with Israel, least of all Syria and to pretend that there might be a change of heart could only undermine Israel’s position.
Rabin addressed a Labor Party forum at Beth Berl near Kfar Saba which filled the main hall of the party’s ideological center while hundreds watched the proceedings on closed circuit television in the anterooms. Speakers included some of Labor’s leading personalities inside and out of the government, among them former Foreign Minister Abba Ebas who chaired the forum, and former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
The Premier’s remarks were obviously attuned to his forthcoming trip to Washington Jan. 7 and 8 where he will hold meetings with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and possibly with President Ford. Rabin’s visit to the U.S. is expected to be crucial to the next round of Middle East peace negotiations and especially the Jan. 12 Security Council debate on the Middle East which Israel announced it would boycott because the PLO has been invited.
DENIES ABSENCE OF PEACE PLAN
Rabin vigorously denied charges that his government had no overall peace plan and proceeded to outline what Israel would accept as defensible borders. A true peace must be on the ground, not on paper, he said. He declared that Israel will not relinquish the Golan Heights, but that this did not necessarily mean that the present lines would remain. He said his government was prepared to offer Egypt far-reaching territorial concessions in Sinai but would retain Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the peninsula.
Rabin said Israel was also prepared for territorial concessions in negotiations with Jordan but that there was no point in drawing maps at this stage because any Israeli pull-backs from the Judaea and Samaria regions would have to be approved by a national plebiscite which the government has promised before signing any agreement with Jordan.
The Premier reiterated that Israel would never accept a third state between itself and Jordan. He said that if PLO chief Yassir Arafat ruled such a state, it would bring another intransigent for close to Israel’s vital centers and reduce the prospects of an overall settlement with Israel’s other neighbors.
He also repeated Israel’s determination not to negotiate with the PLO and insisted that the only real solution of the Palestinian problem would be contained in a settlement with Jordan, Rabin said Israel recognized the existence of a Palestinian problem and that without its solution the Arab-Israel conflict could not be resolved. But he did not believe the Palestinian issue was the crux of the Middle East problem or the key to peace.
NEITHER WAR NOR PEACE IN 1976
Eban and Dayan, though ideologically far apart, supported the government’s position against a third state between Israel and Jordan and against negotiations with the PLO. Dayan said he did not believe 1976 would bring either war or peace to the Middle East because Egypt, Syria, the Soviet Union and, according to the former Defense Minister, the U.S., were seeking the political route of Israel and would not resort to the war option.
But Dayan saw a chance of gaining a renunciation of belligerency from Egypt if the U.S. cooperated in view of its rapprochement with Cairo and Egypt’s need for massive economic aid. He called for Jewish settlement on the West Bank in accordance with defense needs and warned that an Israeli withdrawal from the Judaea and Samaria regions would be an historic error. Eban proposed an interim settlement approach to the West Bank.
Eban called for a new definition of Israel’s position on the Palestinian issue, and while he agreed with the government’s decision to boycott the Jan. 12 Security Council debate, warned that Israel’s absence from UN peace forums should not become a permanent phenomenon.