WASHINGTON (Jun. 29)
The Palestinian problem can only be solved through negotiations, not by war, terrorism or the current uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin stressed Wednesday.
“Even though I accept the principle of territories for peace,” said Rabin, “I will not encourage any giving in to violence in whatever form — civilian violence, terror, or threats of war or wars.” He made the remarks in a luncheon address to the National Press Club.
Noting that as defense minister he is responsible for the Israeli army action in quelling the Palestinian violence, Rabin said that all Israelis find it unpleasant to have the army face a confrontation with civilians.
“I wish we could convince the Palestinians not to use violence by sitting around the table and sipping coffee, or by distributing flowers to demonstrators,” Rabin said. “It doesn’t work.”
He said that Israel has suppressed the uprising on the basis of its own and international law, and that if it did not do so, the result would be an increase in the threat of war and undermining of the peace process.
Rabin, who spoke to the press club after two days of meetings with the top officials of the Reagan administration, said after his 15-minute meeting with Reagan on Tuesday that he had explained Israel’s tactics to the president.
He added that, while he would not say he convinced the administration, Israel would act as it sees fit when its security is threatened.
STATEMENT FROM WHITE HOUSE
The White House, in a statement issued after the Rabin visit, appeared to show understanding for the defense minister’s position, while urging both Israel and the Palestinians not to allow the current situation in the territories to stop the peace process.
“While Israel should not be expected to make concessions under the threat of violence, the preservation of order in the territories must neither provide a justification for civilian lawlessness nor act as an excuse for avoiding political discourse with the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza,” the White House statement said.
“Neither should violence nor controls on violence become ends in themselves, making a political solution more difficult,” the statement said.
Rabin told the press club audience that he met with Palestinian leaders recently and urged them to work for a solution with Israel. He told them they were now leading the Palestinian struggle for the first time since 1948.
“Unfortunately, the answer was and is ‘You know whoever tries to emerge as a leader will be assassinated by the PLO,’ ” Rabin said.
When the defense minister was asked if Israel could be compared to South Africa, he said this was an “insult” to Israel. He said that even if the most extreme Israeli position was taken and the territories were annexed, there would still be a majority of Jews in Israel, and the Arabs would have citizenship, the right to own land and the right to vote and be elected to office.
Noting that Arab newspapers publish every day in East Jerusalem, Rabin said, “I’m not aware that there is any Arab country that would allow its own newspapers to criticize their own government in the way that Palestinian papers are doing.”
AGREEMENT ON MISSILE SIGNED
The defense minister repeated the basic theme of his Washington visit: that Israel, as well as other countries, are threatened by the increasing supplies of ground-to-ground missiles and chemical weapons in Arab hands.
As the Rabin was speaking at the press club, David Ivri, director general of the Israel Defense Ministry, and Gen. James Abrahamson, head of the Strategic Defense Initiative program, signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the Pentagon for Israel’s participation in the “Star Wars” project.
Rabin explained that the agreement allows Israel to develop the technological capabilities for the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile, which Israel wants in order to protect its cities against Soviet-made SS-21 missiles in Syria. He said the agreement allows Israel to prove that the Arrow will work, but does not contain any provision for the developing it as a weapon system at this time.
The White House said the U.S. contribution will be about 80 percent of the $160 million cost of the project.