Eban Urges U.S. to Play an ‘active Conciliation Role’ in the Middle East Peace Process
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Eban Urges U.S. to Play an ‘active Conciliation Role’ in the Middle East Peace Process

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Abba Eban, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, called on the United States to play an “active conciliation role” in the Middle East peace process.

He also told reporters at a breakfast meeting at the National Press Club on Friday that President Reagan’s September 1, 1982 peace initiative had been unsuccessful not because Israel and others had rejected it but because it lacked “perserverance” on the part of the U.S. He said rejection of a proposal is only the beginning of Mideast negotiations, not the end.

Eban faulted both Israel and the U.S. for believing that they could create a government in Lebanon. He said Syria cannot be excluded from having a role in Lebanon no matter how much the U.S. and Israel disliked its government and urged the U.S. to create a relationship with Syria that gives it influence in Damascus.

The former Labor Foreign Minister, quipping that by its new coalition government of Labor and Likud “no one can claim we lack originality,” stressed that there is a consensus in the new government for a withdrawal from Lebanon that guarantees the security of northern Israel and for dealing with the economic situation.


He said that the economic situation “requires restraint that probably only a united coalition can accomplish. We have to do things for which nobody will be able to blame the other party.” But he did not know how this government, with its widely divergent views could deal with the peace process. But he urged the U.S. to “try it and see.”

On the peace process, Eban stressed that if King Hussein of Jordan and the other Arab leaders want concessions from Israel, they should come to the negotiating table. “Nobody knows what Israel is capable of doing in the context of peace until you put to the test,” he said.

“Why should Israelis tear themselves to bits arguing about negotiations that are not taking place,” Eban asked. He noted that Hussein complains constantly about what Israel is not doing or that the U.S. is not pressing Israel, yet he refuses to negotiate, which is the only way to bring about change. Eban said it was a “great mystery” to him why the Arab leaders did not follow the example of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who did negotiate with Israel. He said before those negotiations no one believed Israel would give up the Sinai with its oil wells, bases and settlements. However, he cautioned that while he supports territorial compromise Israel will not withdraw from all of the West Bank.


In the wake of Thursday’s terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy annex in east Beirut, Eban urged the U.S. to beef up its security and stressed that for the U.S. to move out would be giving in to terrorism.

Eban rejected a role for the Soviet Union in the Mideast process until the Kremlin established relations with Israel. He said the USSR cannot play a conciliatory role as long as it does not have relations with one of the parties.


Eban rejected a suggestion that Rabbi Meir Kahane says publicly what many Israelis believe privately when he calls for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. He said Kahane’s election was an “aberration” and that the American-born rabbi’s philosophy reminds many in Israel of the Nazis or of the Arab threats to expel the Jews from Israel.

Kahane’s claim that there cannot be both Zionism and democracy is “nonsense,” Eban said, because democracy is “fundamental” to Zionism. “You cannot say that a Jew cannot be a citizen of a country,” Eban said, “if you cannot say that because it’s anti-Semitism, you cannot say that a Jewish State cannot exist within the international community. That’s why anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are related to each other.”

Eban said that Kahane’s election by only 1.4 percent of the vote is a defect of Israeli democracy. He said the new government may be able to change the election law to require a higher percentage since both major parties were hurt by the votes for small marginal parties.

Eban is in the U.S. for the premier of the nine-hour Public Broadcasting Service series, “Heritage: Civilization and the Jews,” October 1. He is the host and narrator for the series which he helped develop.

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