Rabin: Israel Faces Challenges of Project Renewal, Peace Process

Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin of Israel stressed two challenges his country will face in the year ahead when he addressed major American Jewish organizations during his visit to the U.S. earlier this month. They are Project Renewal, the joint Israeli-diaspora effort to improve the environment and quality of life for Israelis who dwell in poverty areas, and the ongoing peace process with Egypt which, he hoped, could be broadened to include other Arab states.

Rabin, a leader of the opposition Labor Party in Israel, also spoke of overall strategic matters affecting the Middle East and emphasized the need for an American military presence in the region to assert its credibility in defense of the continued flow of oil to the industrial democracies and to block Soviet encroachment.

MIDEAST STRUGGLE IS CRUCIAL

Speaking at the foreign policy symposium of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Washington, Rabin said “The Middle East struggle is crucial in determining the balance between the free world and the Soviet bloc. This struggle might decide the fate of the democratic world.”

The “mood today” of the two superpowers was projected in the manner in which the U.S. handled Iran and the Soviet Union handled Afghanistan, Rabin contended. According to him, “There is no doubt the Russians came up with the upper hand. The American strategic existence in Iran was eliminated.”

Emphasizing that he was expressing his own opinion, Rabin suggested that the U.S. “take the initiative to bring changes in the policies” of the countries that now cooperate with the Soviet Union. He said the Soviets were not engaged in the Middle East on an ideological basis but in a “sheer power struggle.”

Rabin was optimistic about the progress in relations between Israel and Egypt. He said that as long as President Anwar Sadat leads Egypt, peace will continue. But, he added, “even a change of regime in Egypt will not bring a complete switch in Egyptian policies that are now prevailing.” He hinted that Israel would forewarn Sadat of any threat. “If we know of any danger to the Sadat regime, he would know it and would eliminate it,” Rabin said.

EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN REAGAN’S ADMINISTRATION

He expressed confidence that the Reagan Administration “will be bound” by the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. With respect to the Jordanian option, favored by his party, which would have Israel negotiate with King Hussein of Jordan to resolve the Palestinian problem, Rabin said that “for the sake of peace”, Israeli forces would be withdrawn from “70 percent of the West Bank and Gaza” to create “one entity–a Jordanian-Palestinian state.”

In an address to the United Jewish Appeal Southwest Regional Conference in Dallas, Rabin noted the sacrifices Israel already has made for peace. Under the terms of the peace treaty with Egypt, “Israel has given up the oil fields which supplied the country with 25 percent of its oil. Who else would give 25 percent of their oil supply away today? We have done this for peace,” the former Prime Minister said.

He told the 500 Jewish leaders in his UJA audience that “We are determined to keep Project Renewal going, even under the difficulties that we face,” which include a defense budget that is “heavier than that of any other country” and an oil bill that is “bigger than our defense bill.” Nevertheless, he said, “for the further development of Israel, we must also solve the problems, through Project Renewal, that continue to oppress the 300,000 Jews who have not yet been fully absorbed into the mainstream of Israeli society.”

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