MIAMI BEACH (Feb. 26)
Israeli Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres told a gathering of more than 600 supporters of Israel that Syria will have to “bear the consequences” of further troop deployment into southern Lebanon, and warned that Israel needs no country’s permission to defend its borders.
Addressing delegates gathered for the closing assembly of the 18th Annual mid-winter conference of the Israel Histadrut Foundation at the Konover Renaissance Hotel, Peres cited both the Lebanese conflict and the four-year war between Iran and Iraq as primary obstacles in Middle-East peace-making efforts.
The Labor Party leader said that the Soviet-backed Syrians are more interested in forging a formidable standing of power in Middle East affairs than in actually taking over or occupying Lebanon. He expressed hope that such jockeying for position doesn’t lead neighboring Egypt away from its peace accord with Israel and that Egypt will “remain a force for peace in the Middle-East, not for the PLO.”
SAYS THAT SYRIA MUST BE CONTAINED
The former Israeli Defense Minister also warned that Syria must be contained in its advances to the south. “We do not need the permission of Syria, nor the consent of the Lebanese government to defend ourselves, as we are capable; to keep a watching eye on the southern part of Lebanon, so the northern part of Israel will no longer and not again be endangered by terroristic forces.”
“We do not want to become the policeman of Lebanon, nor the policy-maker of the Lebanese destiny,” Peres explained. “We do not have the slightest ambition to gain an inch of her territory, nor a drop of her waters. Nor do we want to become an influential spirit in her policies.”
Peres added that Israel’s “sole purpose” is to “stop the shelling of our kibbutzim, our towns and villages, which was initiated from the southern part of Lebanon by the PLO. We shall do what is necessary to achieve the defense of our country.”
Peres believes that an Iranian victory over Iraq will send far-reaching political shockwaves throughout the Middle East. “The whole position of the moderate Arab countries will be in danger to an extent that nobody can today really fault them for even imagining. An Iranian victory may endanger the safety of Saudi Arabia, the independence of Kuwait and the stability of Jordan.”
Peres characterized Iran’s 84-year old leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as a beligerent madman having “no mercy for other people, nor his own young children that he sends to the front to be killed and to try to kill others.”
Peres reinforced Israel’s determination to create an environment for peace with the Arab countries and to solve the Palestinian conflict “peacefully and fairly; not by the force of the sword, but by the wisdom of compromise.” The problem today in achieving a permanent solution to the Palestinian problem “is not how to conclude negotiations, but how to commence them,” he said.
The Israel Histadrut Fundation raised almost $7 million in pledges and commitments during its three-day conclave, according to Dr. Sol Stein, chairman of the Foundation’s management committee.