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Rabin and Arens Debate Future Policy Regarding Jordan, Lebanon

Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Moshe Arens, the man Rabin would replace if Labor wins the elections next Monday, debated future policy with respect to Jordan and Lebanon before a capacity audience in a Jerusalem theater.

Rabin thought that Israel should offer territorial concessions to induce King Hussein of Jordan to join the peace process. Arens believed it was a mistake to announce a willingness for concessions in advance of negotiations.

Otherwise, the two were not very far apart. Although Labor has been pressing the “Jordanian option” for years, Rabin conceded that in the even the next government is headed by Labor there is no guarantee that Hussein would enter negotiations.

He said a Labor government would never give up Israel’s security line along the Jordan River and a 30-kilometer-deep stretch parallel to that line. But he preferred that Jordan police the heavily Arab populated hinter land of the West Bank.

“They know better than us how to deal with this,” Rabin said, recalling that 14 years ago “We indirectly assisted Hussein to crush the PLO and he did just that and since then there is quiet along the border, mainly thanks to preventive measures by the Jordanian army.”

Arens said the Likud government was ready to negotiate with Hussein “Without preconditions.” The problem, he said, is not what Israel is willing to give up but Hussein’s refusal to sit down and talk. “He is not prepared to take the slightest risk,” Arens said.

He added that Israel’s security could not be guaranteed without control of the West Bank. “What happen- ed in Galilee can also happen in Judaea and Samaria. We have to take care of our own interests, not the Palestinians’ interests,” he said.

Both contestants agreed that there could be no end to Israel’s involvement in Lebanon without ensuring the security of Galilee. Rabin said that as Defense Minister he would have the Israel Defense Force out of Lebanon in six to nine months, provided the IDF is replaced by a United Nations force in the areas of south Lebanon that it evacuates.

Arens, too, wanted the IDF out of Lebanon but he preferred no timetable. He denied a radio report Friday which quoted him as saying that the IDF could not leave Lebanon until there is a strong central government in Beirut. “There will probably never be one” and “we would probably be there forever if that were the case,” he said.

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