JERUSALEM (Jan. 11)
For the first time since Yitzhak Rabin set up his Cabinet 18 months ago, leaving Abba Eban conspicuously out of it. the two men met for a long friendly chat alone in Tel Aviv Friday. The Premier’s aides said they had reviewed the political situation in advance of the Security Council debate. However, they did not deny rumors that their conversation presaged an imminent return of the former Foreign Minister to the government.
Qualified sources indicated that Eban’s return was now to be expected. His precise position is still a matter of speculation. Some sources say Rabin will try to persuade Foreign Minister Yigal Allon to cede the Deputy Premiership to Eban. Eban meanwhile has left for the U.S. on a United Jewish Appeal speaking mission, and he may meet with Rabin there when the Premier makes an official visit to the U.S. later this month.
Eban’s return to the Cabinet has been sought for some time by the ex-Mapai wing of the Labor Party which sees him as a dove who might help swing Rabin away from Defense Minister Shimon Peres’ harder line. Eban is also considered a faithful Mapai man and such men are at a premium among the top office-holders in the Rabin Cabinet. Finance Minister Yehoshua Rabinowitz has reportedly led the campaign for Eban’s return to office.
Eban himself has visibly de-escalated his criticisms of government policy. At a Labor Party ideological debate two weeks ago, he was assiduously correct towards Rabin when both of them appeared on the platform. Some observers link Eban’s projected return to what they see as a shift towards the doves’ view in Rabin’s Palestinian policy.
SIGNIFICANT SHIFT SEEN
Whereas only weeks ago Rabin refused to entertain the question of a possible change in PLO ideology, in his interview with “Nouvel Observateur,” last week he cautiously admitted that a radical change in the PLO would prompt Israel into a re-evaluation, too. He said such a change would have to include abandonment of the “Palestine Covenant.” and was therefore “very, very hypothetical.”
Nevertheless, the doves, such as Aharon Yariv, saw the Rabin statement as a significant shift. Yariv’s own “formula,” which first broached the Palestinian debate in Israeli politics, also conditioned talks with the PLO upon its abandonment of those parts of the Covenant that speak of Israel’s destruction.
Eban, in an interview before leaving yesterday, in effect espoused the “Yariv formula” but stressed that he, like Rabin, firmly opposed a third state between Israel and Jordan. Rabin argues that the Yariv formula in fact is predicated on readiness to contemplate a separate state and believes such a state would endanger Israel’s existence. Eban said the formula meant readiness to talk with any Palestinian representation which accepts Israel’s sovereignty but that talks could be conducted within an overall Israel-Jordan framework.