TEL AVIV (Jun. 4)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Tuesday night that “Israel alone, without other partners or the United States as a third party, must fully strive to strengthen its peace with Egypt.” He said this would be accomplished sooner or later by “taking small steps.” He ruled out “a sudden, out-of-the blue” concession by Israel, for example, on the Taba border dispute, because it “would not serve the goal of strengthening the peace.”
Rabin addressed a symposium at Tel Aviv University in memory of the late Lt. Gen. David Elazar who was Chief of Staff at the time of the Yom Kippur War. He stressed that both Egypt and Israel have an interest in maintaining peace but Israel has to understand that Egypt’s top priority is to improve its standing in the Arab world without doing damage to the Camp David accords, Rabin said.
Changes have taken place in Egypt since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 when Egypt had the strongest Arab army in the Middle East, Rabin said. “This is no longer the case. The Egyptians have slowed their military build-up considerably. However, their army is in the process of modernization,” he said. According to Rabin, the $2.4 billion in foreign aid which Egypt receives annually from the U.S. “encourages Egypt to honor its obligations.”
With respect to Israel’s eastern neighbor, Rabin said Iran represents a far greater threat to Jordan than it does to Israel. “If I were (King) Hussein I’d be for more concerned about the eastern front than the western front,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Rabin toured the northern border region on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Israel Defense Force withdrawal from south Lebanon and the establishment of the border security zone there. He said the security zone has proven its value. As a result, the IDF has “significantly reduced–we have essentially ended–the massive military involvement in Lebanon” since the security zone was established.