Rabin Warns of Confrontation with U.S.

Premier Yitzhak Rabin warned the Labor Party Knesset faction last night that Israel faces a decisive confrontation with the United States at the end of this election year no matter who the next American President is. The gloomy prognostication was made in the course of the Premier’s explanation to the Labor MKs of the Cabinet’s decision Sunday regarding the Gush Emunim squatters in Samaria and West Bank settlement policy.

The warning of a serious divergence between Jerusalem and Washington was the second made publicly by Rabin in less than a week. In an Independence Day eve television interview last Tuesday night, the Premier predicted a clash of views with the U.S. soon over recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

AGREEMENTS AND DISAGREEMENTS

Rabin told his party colleagues last night that history has shown that Israel and the U.S. are generally in agreement over interim settlement proposals but in disagreement on the nature of an overall Middle East peace settlement.

He cited the 1970 cease-fire which ended the war of attrition with Egypt as an example of an interim step on which Israel and the U.S. were in concert. The “Rogers Plan,” enunciated in 1969 by then U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers, was an example of American-Israeli disagreement over long-term measures, Rabin said.

He indicated that the U.S. itself believes that step-by-step diplomacy has run its course and intends to move vigorously toward an overall peace settlement after the Presidential elections are held, one based on the Rogers formula calling for Israel’s retreat to its pre-June 1967 borders with only minor boundary modifications.

Knowledgeable Israeli observers appear to agree with the Premier’s assessment. They believe that if the next “crisis” date is pasted–renewal by Syria of the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) which expires May 30–the U.S. will in effect allow the Middle East situation to lie fallow for the duration of the Presidential campaign. Afterwards, however, the Rogers Plan could re-appear in one guise or another as the driving force of U.S. diplomacy in the region.

This view has been given credence by press reports attributed to State Department sources that middle-echelon American officials have been instructed to draw up position papers on all aspects of the Middle East conflict.

NEXT PRESIDENT A VITAL FACTOR

Although such scenarios have been anticipated here for some time, no great concern was expressed as long as it appeared that Sen. Henry M. Jackson of Washington or Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, of Minnesota, stood a fair chance of gaining the Democratic Presidential nomination. Many Israelis felt that if either of these two longtime friends of Israel reached the White House they could be relied upon not to push Israel too hard, although even with them there would be some tough bargaining and tough decisions for Israel.

But Jackson’s Presidential primary campaign collapsed after his defeat by Jimmy Carter in Pennsylvania and Humphrey has announced that he would not actively seek the nomination. Carter the current Democratic front-runner, is an unknown quantity to Israelis with respect to his possible Middle East policies if elected in November.

The feeling now is that whether a Democrat or a Republican occupies the White House next year, Israeli policy-makers are likely to face a renewal of diplomatic activism by the U.S. within the next 8-9 months. They are convinced that the Rogers Plan, presumably shelved for seven years, has never been discarded.

During his television interview last Tuesday. Rabin offered a three-point program to gird Israel for an imminent confrontation with the U.S.: Israel should reduce its dependence on America by producing more and consuming less; public order must be maintained on the West Bank in the face of pro-Palestinian and terrorist activities; and Israel must fight to win world opinion to its cause, first and foremost in the U.S., and to make clear why terrorist organizations cannot be negotiating partners. (By David Landau)

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