Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned today that Israel will not tolerate Arab shelling of Israeli settlements, and, when such attacks take place, “let there be no mistake — we shall reply and our reaction will be immediate and unhesitant.”
The Premier made Israel’s position clear in an interview in Maariv, Israel’s leading evening newspaper. Referring to the continuing acts of sabotage along the borders, he declared: “We cannot permit ourselves the luxury of reacting to every act of mining or other type of sabotage. But we shall not tolerate the shelling of our settlements. If they are shelled, there will be reaction. I cannot say what form it will take, but the Syrians will get the reaction.”
Mr. Eshkol recalled in that connection Israel’s action against Syria, on April 7, when Israel’s Air Force downed six Soviet-made MIG-21 jet fighters flown by Syrians, after the Syrians had shelled Israeli settlements in the north. He revealed that he had himself sat in Israel’s Air Force operating room that day, and had given instructions for Israel’s Air Force to go into action “in order to counter Syria’s superiority — due to Syria’s superior topographical positions — in operating its guns and mortars against the Israeli settlements,” He said he had given the orders to pursue the Syrian-flown MIGs. Mr. Eshkol is not only the Premier but is also Minister of Defense.
In reply to questions on other issues related to Arab hostility, Mr. Eshkol said: “Our invitation to Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser to come to peace talks with Israel still stands. The same is true also regarding the leaders of Syria. I told an interviewer for U.S. News and World Report (a weekly newsmagazine published in Washington) recently that, whenever we ask for American arms, we are told we cannot spend money for this purpose because the American Sixth Fleet is there (in the Mediterranean). My reply is that the Sixth Fleet might be too late, for some reason or other, when it is needed. Therefore, Israel must rely on her own strength.”
Regarding Israel’s relations with the Soviet Union, he stated “I think there is some slight change for the better in the Russian attitude. But one must have a sensitive ear to monitor it.” Asked for his reaction to Israel’s trade agreement with Rumania, concluded last week, he said: “It is an impressive achievement reached after prolonged negotiations. It might open the door for us to the East European bloc.”
As for Israel’s internal economic situation, Mr. Eshkol said “there are already signs of increased production and export, which are the real aims of our policy of restraint.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.