JERUSALEM (Feb. 1)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin said here last night that initiatives taken by his government in the past “might create conditions for progress toward peace during 1977 or 1978.” He also said that Israel expected that “developments in Lebanon will be corrected by peaceful diplomatic means,” a reference to the current presence of Syrian troops in southern Lebanon near the Israeli border.
However, the Premier warned, in an address at the closing dinner of the annual Prime Minister’s Israel Bonds Conference, that the Arab states should not take “our patience” over recent events in Lebanon as “a sign of weakness or a change in our policy.”
He reiterated that peace heads Israel’s agenda. If the Arabs are ready for real negotiations they will find Israel “a strong, reasonable and a forthcoming partner,” but if they are not ready to negotiate, “I can promise them that we will not be taken by surprise again,” Rabin told 300 American and Canadian Jewish leaders attending the Bonds conference at the Jerusalem Hilton Hotel.
The situation in Lebanon will be resolved when U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance visits the Middle East Feb. 14-21, observers here believe. They expect Syria to withdraw its forces from Nabatiyeh at that time. To do so sooner would create the impression that Syria was backing down under Israeli pressure, the observers said. If the Syrians refused to withdraw, their presence in southern Lebanon would become a top priority issue during the Vance visit, they said.
A total of $8.5 million in Israel Bonds were sold at the Jerusalem Hilton dinner last night. As Sam Rothberg, general chairman of the Israel Bonds Organization, announced the pledges, several participants increased their purchases to $1 million. Rothberg presented Rabin with a Prime Minister’s Club pin which is awarded to persons purchasing bonds in the amount of $25,000 or over.