JERUSALEM (May. 6)
The military threat Syria poses to Israel is not as serious as some analysts contend, Premier Shimon Peres told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday. He said he did not share the view of those who are impressed by Syria’s armed might.
Moreover, he said, Syria is in the throes of a severe economic crisis. Its foreign currency reserves are down to $50 million. The country is plagued by internal terrorism and its involvement in Lebanon “is far from enviable,” Peres said.
He addressed the Knesset committee in connection with Syrian President Hafez Assad’s State visit to Jordan, his first since 1977. According to Peres, the recent rapprochement between Syria and Jordan was intended, among other things, to pressure the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Syria backs the PLO dissidents who ousted Yasir Arafat from Lebanon in 1984. King Hussein of Jordan tried unsuccessfully to work out a formula with Arafat for Palestinian participation with Jordan in peace negotiations with Israel.
Peres described as “speculation” reports that Jordan might allow Syria to deploy missiles in its territory. He admitted that he would prefer not to contemplate such a development.
Peres also expressed the view that the Soviet Union did not encourage Syria to be more aggressive. He noted in that connection Moscow’s restrained reaction to the April 14 American air strike against Libya, which is supplied with Soviet arms and is believed by some to be a Soviet client-state.