NEW YORK (Aug. 7)
In his first address before a Jewish group during his current speaking tour on behalf of the Begin government, former Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that the current “emergency” situation facing Israel requires the “full power and solidarity of a united Jewish world.”
Addressing some 150 top Jewish leaders here, Eban said American policy makers were “unusually sensitive to Jewish opinion”. But he warned that in the absence of any progress toward filling the diplomatic vacuum, the Arab states may choose the military option. This would require, he said, a “second line of defense, a contingency plan,” if the gap between the present positions of Israel and the Arab states proves too great.
Eban expressed the opinion that a “failed peace conference at Geneva” could be worse than a peace conference that does not take place. He said Israel was “wise” to insist on a full peace treaty as the “ultimate destination” of Arab-Israeli negotiation but he indicated that there was a greater likelihood of winning agreement on steps toward that destination than on the final outcome.
Eban cautioned against expecting that Israel would be “rescued” by divisions within the Arab world. He also rejected Arab efforts to “blow up” the significance of the recent Knesset action in legalizing the three settlements on the West Bank. The importance of that action, Eban said, was “marginal, minimal and subsidiary”.
APPROACH TO U.S. PUBLIC OPINION
He indicated that the theme of Israel’s approach to American public opinion would be to emphasize that “only Israel can decide the minimum conditions for our security because only Israel is prepared to sacrifice the lives that may be necessary to assure that security.” American support on this issue, he said, was essential.
In response to a question on his relationship to the Begin government, he said it was his hope that the new leadership in Israel, which has the power, would take advantage of the experience of members of previous governments so that the full range of Israeli strength could be mobilized in support of Israel’s struggle for peace and security. Eban was warmly received by the representatives of the 32 constituent members of the Presidents Conference who were augmented by leaders of various local Jewish communities.