MONTREAL (Apr. 15)
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban is sharply critical of the Western European countries, especially France, which have adopted a pro-Arab position in the current Middle East peace process and are making overtures to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here, Eban, a labor Party member of the Knesset, observed that “We have the right to ask all countries and particularly the European countries, not to interfere with the on going peace process between Egypt and Israel.” He said “I am dismayed by the multiplicity of declarations coming from various governments in Europe when Europe has done very little to start the peace process.”
Eban appeared to be referring specifically to the remarks by President Valery Giscard d’Estaing of France during a recent visit to Kuwait and other Arab oil-producing countries calling for self-determination for the Palestinian people, language regarded as an endorsement of a Palestinian state. “It is ironic to speak in Kuwait about the rights of man when all that exists there is oil. But Israel should not have to pay the price for it,” Eban said.
He expressed hope that Giscard will abandon the idea of inviting PLO chief Yasir Arafat to Paris. Europe gets nothing in exchange for granting legitimacy to the PLO, Eban said. He praised the stand by French Jewry in this situation. “I admire the spirit animating French Jewry and their attitude helps Israel in the balance of forces acting in the diplomatic field,” he said.
ISRAEL WILL NOT BEND UNDER PRESSURE
Eban, who spoke to the JTA on the eve of Premier Menachem Begin’s departure for Washington for meetings with President Carter on the autonomy negotiations, declared that “no pressure would bend Israel.” He noted that “President (Anwar) Sodat has understood very well that Israel cannot be pressured because peace can only result from negotiations between equals.” In that connection, the Israeli diplomat asked. “Why should Israel have to confront its enemies a lone and why should not pressure be exerted equally on its enemies?”
He asserted that Israel “cannot under estimate the threats of the PLO because of our tragic experience. If the Palestinians wish to establish an independent state side-by-side with Israel and not in place of Israel, why do they not agree to enter negotiations the way President Sadat did?” At another point, he said, “The PLO has no need to negotiate with Israel but only to recognize its legitimate existence.”
He said that King Hussein of Jordan, “although he is aligned with the reductionist front, might change his attitude if he is faced with the possibility of getting back the West Bank. One should not forget that the King has been one of the few to realize that the State of Israel is here to stay.”
Eban said he hoped Sadat will pursue the autonomy negotiations even after the May 26 target date as long as there is movement and momentum. “I think Begin has taken responsibility by accepting full autonomy for the Palestinians,” he said. According to Eban, this can be done by granting full competence to the administrative council except in matters pertaining to Israel’s security.
ON THE JEWISH SETTLEMENTS
He said that Jewish settlements on the West Bank should remain within the jurisdiction and initiative of Israel during the autonomy period. “After three or five years of experiencing peaceful coexistence we may convince the Palestinians that a confederation of some sort is preferable to independence,” the former Foreign Minister said.
“I expect that the international press would apply a reciprocity of treatment in asking the PLO to renounce its charter demanding the destruction of Israel while soliciting concessions from the State of Israel.”
The former Foreign Minister was in Montreal to address a conference on Israel’s right to exist and the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewry. The conference, held Sunday night at the Sharei Zion Congregation, was attended by 1500 people.