LONDON (Feb. 26)
A victory by the Iranian forces would be more dangerous for Israel than if the Iraqis win the Persian Gulf war, Abba Eban, former Israeli Foreign Minister said here.
Vowing preference for neither side in the bloody four-year-old conflict, he said he did not want to see Israel become the prime target for an irredentist Shiite Islam led by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini. Such a prospect made it all the more important for Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon and so avoid having to rule the half a million Shiites living in that area, Eban said.
Such a withdrawal, he argued, would have to involve a security arrangement with Syria, which he described as being “contractually available” for an agreement like that which led to the Golan Heights disengagement 10 years ago.
Unlike that occasion, though, he expressed skepticism about the possibility of excluding the Soviet Union from the negotiating process, especially as the United States had so compromised itself in the eyes of Syria’s President Hafez Assad.
Eban told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, however, that although a Labor government would be flexible over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, there was no reason to repeal the legislation, enacted by the Likud government, extending Israeli law to the Golan area. “We would deal with it pragmatically, and not juridically”, he said.
On the wider Arab-Israeli front, Eban foresaw no likelihood of negotiations in 1984. He blamed the diplomatic stalemate on the U.S. presidential elections, the inflexibility of the present Israeli government and on Arab “timidity.” He observed: “All you can do is try to hold the line and hope for new opportunities in 1985.”