TEL AVIV (Jul. 22)
A report in the Middle East Intelligence Survey and information from other sources appeared today to confirm that Syria is actively engaged in annexing parts of Lebanon. Concern over such a move by Syria was voiced by Defense Minister Shimon Peres earlier this week. But Premier Yitzhak Rabin, addressing volunteers and settlers in several towns and kibbutzim in Galilee today, strongly implied that Syrian moves in Lebanon coincided with Israel’s interests at the moment and that Israeli intervention was unwarranted.
The Syrian army is engaged in a battle with the PLO forces and the extreme leftists in Lebanon, because those elements reject any logical political settlement of the Lebanese civil war, Rabin said. As long as the Syrian army or any other army does not constitute any threat to Israel “I don’t see any reason why Israel should find itself involved in a war that would only add death and destruction,” the Premier declared.
He said Israel’s involvement in Lebanon consisted only of providing medical aid and food for Lebanese refugees seeking such aid, regardless of whether they are Christians or Moslems. According to Rabin, leftists and Moslem elements, some of them deserters from the Lebanese army, have tried to contact Israel through the United Nations to reactivate the Mixed Armistice Commission. He saw that as an indication that the Arabs in southern. Lebanon are unwilling to become involved in any clash with Israel and therefore southern Lebanon’ has been relatively quiet while the civil war rages in the rest of the country.
According to intelligence reports, the Syrians have virtually taken over an area of Lebanon about 100 kilometers long by 15 kilometers wide between the central mountain region and the Syrian border. They have introduced Syrian currency into the region and have banned all but Syrian newspapers.
Lebanese citizens wishing to visit towns like Baalbek and Zahleh in the region require permission from the Syrian authorities, the reports said. According to one report, the Syrians have removed the old border signs indicating that they now regard that region of Lebanon to be part of Syria.
RABIN PRAISES NIXON
Rabin, speaking to a meeting of volunteers at the educational center in Zemach, had some unexpected praise for former President Nixon. According to Rabin, the former chief executive did more for Israel than any other American President. Rabin referred to Nixon’s orders to start the arms airlift to Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Rabin also praised Nixon’s Mideast policy, claiming that he was the first American President in 29 years to be welcomed in Cairo and Damascus because he showed his determination to stand by Israel on one hand and to help achieve a political settlement on the other.