JERUSALEM (Jan. 15)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said today that the Soviet Navy has increased its activity in the Mediterranean this past week to deter Israel from attacking Libya. He said Israel was not acting against Libya directly in its war against terrorism.
Libya has been accused by Israel and the United States of supporting the Abu Nidal terrorist gang held responsible for the fatal attacks on EI AI passenger facilities at the Rome and Vienna airports December 27. The U.S. has imposed economic and legal sanctions against Libya.
Rabin, addressing a conference of the World Union of Jewish Journalists here, said operations against terrorism is a continuing process that includes both preventive and punitive measures. He added that Israel would not do the obvious nor would it react automatically to every act of terrorism.
Stepped up Soviet fleet activity was also confirmed by the U.S. The Pentagon reported yesterday that two Libyan MIG-25 jet fighters “buzzed” a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the Mediterranean Monday. The Pentagon said the Libyan jets were in contact with Soviet surveillance aircraft and hinted that Libya and the Soviet Navy might be exchanging intelligence.
Rabin also remarked on the recent confrontations between Knesset members and Moslem militants on the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem. He warned against turning the political conflict in the Middle East into religious warfare and urged Israelis not to behave in a way that could provoke Moslem religious sensibilities. “This would be the greatest mistake we could make,” he said.
According to Rabin, the Cabinet’s decision Monday to submit Israel’s border dispute with Egypt over Taba to binding arbitration was one of the most important decisions of recent years to cement Israel’s relations with Egypt.
Rabin referred to another important Cabinet decision in remarks to reporters in Tel Aviv yesterday. It was the first anniversary of the decision to pull the Israel Defense Force out of Lebanon and Rabin noted on the occasion that not a single civilian has been killed or wounded in northern Israel since the IDF withdrew last June. He noted that two Israeli soldiers have been killed in the south Lebanon security zone.
“That is a dear price to pay but it cannot be compared to the human and economic price paid while we were deployed” in Lebanon, Rabin said. He said Israel’s position toward Lebanon is “live and let live” but in no case will Israel tolerate terrorist attacks across the Lebanese border.
An explosion heard in several northern border villages Monday was apparently a Katyusha rocket that was aimed at Israel territory but fell short in the security zone. Bad weather prevented the IDF from searching the area to determine where the rocket exploded.