TEL AVIV (Dec. 25)
Abba Eban, the former Foreign Minister who currently chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Would like to see the United States embark once more on “an era of controlled activism”in the Middle East.
The time has come for the U.S. to take new initiatives in the region, Eban said in a weekend radio interview. “The U.S. seems now to be much less disposed to enter the arena than it was a few years ago.” He conceded that many Israelis would prefer no new American initiatives. However, the Israeli diplomat said, “My own feeling is that we gained a great deal from American activity in the five years from 1974 to 1979.”
He enumerated the five agreements concluded in that period between Israel and its neighbors through U.S. mediation; the disengagement agreements with Egypt and Syria after the Yom Kippur War; the Sinai interim agreement with Egypt; the Camp David agreement; and finally the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty signed in 1979.
SUGGESTIONS FOR U.S. ACTIVITY
“I think it is about time for the wheel to turn into an era of controlled activism, ” Eban said. He suggested in that context that the U.S. help Israel “mediate a settlement in Lebanon such as would enable us to move out of Lebanon without endangering our security, if they (the Americans) would develop their relations with Syria to that end; if they would work for a more warm human content in relations between Egypt and Israel and if they would then investigate the possibility of an Israeli-Jordan negotiation on the basis of (UN Security Council) Resolution 242.”
Eban said American activity, in that order of priority, “would be more useful than for all of us to sit back and do nothing.” He added, “I have a traumatic recollection which tells me that periods of diplomatic inactivity usually end in war and do not end in peace.”
Eban said there was nothing in the Labor-Likud unity coalition agreement to prevent the government from implementing the national consensus for disengagement from Lebanon.
He observed that every week Israel stayed in Lebanon seemed to increase the rancor of the Shiite Moslems, the majority population in south Lebanon. “We seem to have exchanged PLO rancor for a rancor and a hatred which is even more intense, because instead of a few thousand PLO people we have three quarters of a million Shiites and a great danger they will become our enemies. It is therefore very urgent to find an exit” from Lebanon, Eban said.
Dr. Clinton Bailey, a Tel Aviv University authority on the Shiites, said he thought Eban’s analysis was essentially correct but that Shiite hostility toward Israel was not necessarily a permanent phenomenon.