JERUSALEM (Dec. 3)
The recent wave of terrorist attacks — the Achille Lauro hijack and the murders of Israelis in Larnaca, Cyprus and Barcelona — have proven to be counter-productive as far as Palestinian Arabs are concerned.
The Palestinians are beginning to realize that such outrages actually damage their cause and, for the first time, local Palestinians have openly criticized the Palestine Liberation Organization, Col. Ephraim Sneh, head of the West Bank civil administration, told a breakfast meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the Jerusalem Hilton Hotel.
According to Sneh, West Bank Palestinians are be coming more moderate. A majority of them no longer talk of pushing the Israelis “into the sea” and most speak of negotiations with Israel on the basis of the June, 1967 borders, not the borders of the 1947 UN partition resolution as they have in the past. The Palestinians also recognize that Jordan is a necessary partner in any negotiations with Israel, Sneh said.
But, he cautioned, if militancy is on the wane among West Bank Palestinians — the territory was relatively quiet in November which in the past has been a very violent month — they are sinking into pessimism and despair. They are disappointed because Jordan has not offered much help and because Israel has not been more forthcoming with compromise.
It would be dangerous, however, for Israel to draw the wrong conclusions from the apparent apathy of the Palestinians, Sneh warned. This situation can lead to desperation and desperation can erupt in violence, he said.
IMPRESSED WITH SETTLERS’ CAUSE
The 75 members of the Presidents Conference delegation made their first official tour of the West Bank today. They visited the Jewish settlement, Ariel, in the Samaria district where they were greeted by flag-waving school children who serenaded them with a medley of Hebrew songs. In addition to the school, they visited a hi-tech factory and met with the Mayor, Ron Nahman.
The American Jewish leaders obviously were impressed. Some said later that they had gotten “a different feel” for the settlers’ cause. One member of the delegation told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he got a new perspective on Israel’s security when he found he could see the Shalom Tower, a high rise office building in Tel Aviv, from Ariel.
FUTURE OF THE TERRITORIES DEBATED
Only last night, the Presidents Conference delegates heard a vigorous debate over the future of the territories, a problem that divides Israelis and also American Jews. The Labor Party’s case for territorial compromise as the way to peace was presented by Abba Eban, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and a former Foreign Minister. Likud MK Dan Meridor argued his party’s stand that the territories are an indivisible part of Israel and any compromise would threaten its survival.
According to Eban, the real issue is not where Israel’s borders will be but what kind of state it will become in the future. Israel, he said, “must disengage itself from the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza in order to remain a Jewish state.”
Meridor claimed that regardless of objections by the Arab population, “we must deal with reality, not with wishful thinking.” Giving up any part of the territories would pose a major security threat to Israel, he said.
THE POLLARD CASE
Considerable time was devoted by the Jewish leaders yesterday to the case of Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy counterintelligence analyst arrested for allegedly spying for Israel. Addressing the group, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin rejected as “total nonsense” and “completely incorrect” reports that Israel used information provided by Pollard to carry out its air raid on the PLO base in Tunisia October I.
“Israel would have been in bad shape if it had to depend on such sources to carry out such a raid,” Rabin said. He said that while the Pollard case has “overshadowed” U.S.-Israel relations, he believed the solid friendship between the two countries will not be affected in the long run.
Speaking on security matters, Rabin said the most powerful threat to Israel now comes from Syria. He warned that while Israel took serious risks by reducing its defense budget by $650 million this year, the Arab countries are re-arming themselves on a massive scale, spending more than $20 billion a year on Soviet and Western arms.
Rabin acknowledged that terrorism cannot be eliminated altogether. But he vowed that Israelis, who have to cope with terrorism daily, will continue to fight it with the goal of “minimizing our damage and maximizing their (the terrorists) damage.”