JERUSALEM (Jun. 15)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin presented a detailed and comprehensive review of Israel’s foreign policy to the Knesset today during which he defined the so-called “Red Line” with respect to Lebanon, took a conciliatory but firm position toward the Arab states and assailed the Soviet Union. Moscow, of late, has become even more of an obstacle to progress towards peace in the Middle East than previously, the Premier charged.
Addressing the Knesset at the opening of a major foreign policy debate, Rabin praised U.S. leaders for backing Israel’s refusal to attend a Geneva conference where the Palestine Liberation Organization was present. He expressed appreciation of American military and political aid to Israel on an unprecedented level. He acknowledged that there were differences of outlook with Washington but said he was confident they would be overcome. Rabin focussed on the situation in Lebanon which, he stressed, was unpredictable because it was “fluid and changing from hour to hour.” He said he would “prefer not to say if or when a cease-fire will take hold or if or when Lebanon will return to being an independent state.”
COMPONENTS OF THE ‘RED LINE’
He said Israel was maintaining careful and constant surveillance of events in Lebanon. It prefers not to act, but “if a new situation arises, our own position could well change, in accordance with our security considerations,” the Premier warned. In that connection Rabin explained the meaning of the “Red Line,” the unofficial label given to a hypothetical situation that could cause Israel to intervene in the Lebanese conflict. He said it consisted of several components, among them “the aim of the foreign forces operating in Lebanon and the targets against which they are operating; their geographical position and its proximity to Israel; their military strength; and the length of time they spend in a given area.”
Rabin said that two specific dangers to Israel and to the Middle East’s stability as a whole could arise from the Lebanese war. “If Lebanon loses its independence and falls to the terrorist organizations or their allies or if Lebanon comes under Syrian domination,” these dangers could become acute, he said. He added, however, that the “various factors operating in Lebanon are aware of what moves and situations would be considered intolerable by us.”
Rabin was cautious in his assessment of Syria’s position both with respect to its intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East situation as a whole. He said he “willingly noted” Syria’s recent consent to renew the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights with no conditions attached. On the other hand, he said, Syria has shown no readiness to negotiate with Israel. It still demands Israel’s total withdrawal from the coministered territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state as a condition for talks–and not even talks aimed at a full peace settlement. Syria has not responded to the U.S.-Israeli end-of-war initiative and “this obstinacy is the obstacle on the road to peace,” Rabin declared.
With respect to Egypt, Rabin noted that quiet has been maintained along Israel’s southern and northern lines and attributed this to the second interim agreement with Egypt signed last September. Syria’s agreement to extend the UNDOF mandate four times was doubtlessly linked to the situation in Sinai where two interim accords were successfully implemented, Rabin said. He said those agreements benefited both parties although Egypt has been attacked by Arab hardliners for having, in effect, given Israel a “safe border” in the south.
Rabin noted that Cairo has strenuously denied that charge but observed that “It is not for us to involve ourselves in this inter-Arab feuding.” He acknowledged that Egypt still takes bitter anti-Israel positions in the United Nations and other international arenas. “Indeed, I cannot, regretfully, rule out the possibility of Egyptian recidivism which would be dangerous” to the peace process, Rabin said. But, Egypt’s signature and observance of the second interim agreement in Sinai is proof of its desire to remain within the U.S. orientation rather than pursue the war option with Soviet aid, he asserted.
The Premier warned King Hussein of Jordan not to go too far in his “romance” with Syria and the Soviet Union. Hussein is due in Moscow for a state visit this week-end. However, Rabin said, so far Jordan has acted with restraint in its rapprochement with Syria. For the present, therefore, Israel has “no reason” to alter its policy on the “eastern front.” Israel still regards Jordan as a potential negotiating partner, he said, and disregards the Rabat summit decision which assigned that role to the PLO.
Likud leader Menachem Beigin, responding to the Premier, charged that the government had no workable peace plan. He claimed that the Premier himself had admitted recently that the Arabs would not accept Israel’s most generous territorial offers which would have Israel retain only part of the Golan Heights and united Jerusalem. Beigin charged it was the “height of irresponsibility” for the government to offer major withdrawals in exchange for non-belligerency. He insisted that Likud’s policy of retaining all of the West Bank could lead to peace. He claimed that raising the demographic issue–the possibility Arabs under Israeli rule would eventually outnumber Jews–was a denial of the basic Zionist faith that many millions of Jews would settle in Israel.