WASHINGTON (Mar. 19)
The leader of Israel’s main opposition party this week spelled out for an American Jewish audience how the Labor Party differs from the ruling Likud bloc on the issue of settlements in the administered territories.
Rather than build new settlements in the West Bank, Israel should concentrate on providing jobs and housing for Soviet immigrants and young Israelis, Yitzhak Rabin said Tuesday.
Rabin, who will become prime minister if Labor wins the June 23 elections, spoke at the closing luncheon of the United Jewish Appeal’s eighth national young leadership conference.
While never mentioning Israel’s request for U.S. loan guarantees, Rabin said Israel’s future depends not on building 10,000 more settlements, but on jobs, housing, and improved infrastructure and transportation. These are all items which Israel hoped to fund with $10 billion in loan money guaranteed by the United States.
But on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who holds the second spot on the Likud election list, told the same UJA gathering that Israel will never give up its right to settle Jews anywhere in the Land of Israel. Israel will not give up its right to safeguard its security in return for the loan guarantees, he said.
Rabin told the UJA leaders that he believes in “the right of the Jewish people (to live) all over Israel.” But he said he would only support settlements that were established for security reasons, rather than political ones.
Reminding his listeners that he was commander in chief of the Israel Defense Force during the Six-Day War, Rabin vowed that “never again” would an Israeli military leader have to face such a narrow line.
For this reason, he opposes returning to the 1967 borders. But once adjustments are made for security reasons, with settlements along the periphery, Israel should not hold the rest of the West Bank with its large Arab population, he said.
“I want Israel to be a Jewish democratic state,” Rabin said to applause from many of the 3,000 UJA delegates. But he said it cannot be a Jewish state if one-third of the population is Palestinian.
“They and not the ultra-Orthodox” would then hold the balance of power in forming Israeli governments, Rabin warned.
Rabin ruled out non-democratic alternatives. He said Israel cannot set up an apartheid system just as it is being phased out in South Africa. Nor can Israel expel large numbers of Arabs as Jews are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Jewish expulsion from Spain.
Rabin said the solution is to start the autonomy process as envisioned by the 1978 Camp David accords. He predicted the present talks between Israel and Palestinians will “lead nowhere.”