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PLO Strife Called Good for Israel

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Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s opinion that the current strife within the Palestine Liberation Organization is good for Israel, was disputed by a former chief of Israel army intelligence at a panel discussion on regional security and national defense today.

Shamir, speaking at the annual conference of the David Institute at the Hebrew University, maintained that any difficulties for the PLO were to Israel’s advantage. He said the uprising by PLO dissidents against Yasir Arafat was a direct result of the war in Lebanon which badly mauled the terrorist organization.

But Prof. Yehoshafat Harkabi, the former IDF intelligence chief and a leading strategist and researcher on the Middle East took a less sanguine view. He warned that the rift in the PLO could lead to further radicalization of the organization and make a possible peace settlement in the region even more remote than it seems at present.

According to Harkabi, the war in Lebanon only intensified Soviet involvement in Syria. “It is because of Israel that there is now a massive Soviet presence in Syria. Israel has turned into a Soviet asset,” in that respect, he said. He also contended that the war in Lebanon weakened Israel in that it reduced her deterrence.

Another panelist, Prof. Shlomo Avneri, a onetime Director General of the Foreign Ministry, said Israel’s action in Lebanon was responsible for putting the Golan Heights on the agenda of any peace negotiations. “Israel can thank its present government for having succeeded to include the Golan in this package deal,” he said.

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