JERUSALEM (Jan. 14)
Premier Menachem Begin said today that Syria may try to attack Israel because of internal problems in Damascus, However, he told a group of Conservative members of the British Parliament meeting with him in the Knesset, that Israel was watching the situation closely and was ready for any eventuality.
Begin said that following President Hafez Assad’s recent visit to Moscow, Syria received “gigantic” amounts of weapons from the Soviet Union. He said that thousands of Russians have arrived in Syria, ostensibly as advisors. The arms shipments, he said, included MIG-25 fighters and 1-72 tanks. “We are prepared,” the Israeli Premier said. “We are not frightened by such threats but we would like to have complete peace on all borders.”
Similar comments were exchanged over the weekend between the British visitors and senior army officers of the northern command. One of the latter suggested that a possible motive for Syria engaging in war with Israel was Assad’s desire to jeopardize the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The officer said that as the time approached for the two countries to exchange ambassadors, Syria’s wish to impede the relations between them increased.
He observed that the eastern front–Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia– was not organized at present. But Iraq might pour forces close to the Israeli border. In that case, he said Israel will not be able to permit herself “the luxury” of allowing Iraqi divisions on her border.
The British delegation of 20 members of Parliament began their second week in Israel today. They have already toured the West Bank and Gaza Strip and visited one of the airfields in Sinai that Israel is stated to evacuate next year. They also toured the Golan Heights. The delegates brought a message from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “to the people of Israel” expressing her wishes for peace and prosperity;