NEW YORK (Nov. 8)
Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban said today that “the first urgency” in the Mideast is for an “American-Israeli dialogue,” in order to reach understanding between the two countries on the terms and meaning of a settlement between Israel and the Arabs.
Addressing a press conference here sponsored by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for Policy Planning and Strategic Studies, of which Eban is chairman, the Israeli diplomat and Knesset member said that until the new U.S. Administration is composed “It’s premature to talk about the Mideast in any operative terms.” He said, however, that the prospects for Israel under the Carter Administration in 1977 are “bright,” and that he expects the Carter Administration to continue basically President Ford’s Mideast policy. He added that U.S. policy toward Israel “rests on national consensus.”
The next stage in the Mideast will be American-Israeli consultations.” Eban said, adding that any progress in the Mideast in 1977 will be determined by the degree of American willingness “to offer its services” for a negotiated settlement in the area. He observed that the disengagement agreements between Israel and Egypt and Syria provide for an opportunity to deliberate the next step in the Mideast with “no pressure of emergency.”
Eban said that Israel is interested in three major points concerning U.S. policy in the Mideast in 1977: maintaining the balance of arms in the area and “keeping Israel strong militarily” since the Arabs have other sources of arms; preserving Israeli economic viability; and helping promote Arab-Israeli dialogue because the U.S. has access to both sides in the conflict.
ARAB-ISRAEL DEBATE SUGGESTED
Asked if Israel is willing to debate with the Arabs on American TV, similar to the Ford-Carter debates before the Presidential election. Eban said that Israel was always open for any form of dialogue with the Arabs and that they were the ones who refuse. He suggested, however open debate via satellite between members of Tel Aviv University and Cairo University to discuss the future of the Mideast.
In his opening statement on the newly established Institute of Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Eban observed that “there is a need for new thinking about the central problem of Arab-Israel peace.” He said that the ISS, under the direction of MK Aharon Yariv, a former Director of Intelligence in the Israeli Defense Forces, was established to meet these problems.
Citing the errors made by Israel during the early stages of the Yom Kippur War. Eban stated: “Under Yariv’s direction the Institute can play a valuable role in acting as a safeguard against intellectual assumptions becoming frozen as accepted dogma. The Institute will therefore help to insure that right choices are taken in matters in which Israel cannot afford to go wrong.”