JERUSALEM (Jun. 9)
A Hebrew University expert in foreign affairs urged today that Israel utilize the current crisis in Lebanon as leverage to press for a general peace settlement with the Arabs, especially Syria. He warned that if Israel misses this opportunity, it will be faced with a radicalized Lebanon and a “hot border” on its north.
Prof. Mordecai Abir, a specialist in East African studies, said at a briefing for foreign newsmen that “Despite the terrible things happening in Lebanon, the crisis is, in a way, a God-sent gift to Israel. If we don’t create leverage today, we shall not have it tomorrow,” he warned. He said Israel’s policy of avoiding military intervention in the Lebanese conflict was the correct one.
However, he urged political moves, “something big,” because once the crisis is over “Syria contrary to what is believed, would radicalize its policy toward Israel in order to build up her image in the Arab world.” Whatever is the outcome of the Lebanese crisis, Lebanon will turn into a “hot border” and the Syrians will take every strategic advantage possible, Prof. Abir said.
He and Prof. Moshe Maoz, of the Hebrew University’s Truman Institute for the Study of Middle Eastern Affairs, agreed at the briefing that Syria’s ultimate aim was control of Lebanon and the creation of a “Greater Syria” extending from Lebanon to the Gulf of Aqaba. They also agreed that the fate of the Palestine Liberation Organization is now in the balance. “Without the territorial base of Lebanon, the PLO will turn to nothing,” Prof. Abir said.