Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin appears ready for a deeper withdrawal from the Golan Heights than his generals have proposed.
This admission was wrung out of him by Likud’s Benny Begin in an appearance by Rabin before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
At the same hearing on Tuesday, Tsomet Knesset member Moshe Peled accused Rabin of dragging the Israel Defense Force into the politics of the peace process with Syria.
How had it happened, Peled wanted to know, that the IDF generals had prepared a withdrawal document?
Rabin replied that the IDF report, and others like it, including one recently prepared by the Foreign Ministry, “is nothing more than a presentation of facts and figures to help the political echelons to arrive at informed decisions.
“Neither the IDF nor any other state institution busies itself with diplomatic affairs. They supply security information at our request and direction alone,” the prime minister said.
The IDF proposals were contained in a working paper completed this week that may well be used as the basis for upcoming negotiations with Syria.
The proposals in that report reportedly include an Israeli willingness to withdraw from the Golan Heights, but without any mention of full withdrawal.
A recent report in the highly respected Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz indicated that the Israeli Foreign Ministry was drafting a detailed blueprint for peace with Syria that would be based on a total Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.
Rabin has stated several times in the past that he would call for a referendum among the Israeli public before agreeing to any “major” withdrawal on the Golan in return for the establishment of peaceful relations between Israel and Syria.
Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu used Rabin’s appearance before the committee to attack him for stating Tuesday that Israel will allow families of the members of the future Palestinian police force to return to the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho.
“This is tantamount to accepting the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland,” Netanyahu said. “We are not talking about a wife and a dog here. We are talking about big families.
“What if the figure is 50,000 or 60,000?” Netanyahu asked.
“There are more than 750,000 Palestinians in Gaza,” Rabin answered. “In my view, another 20,000 or 30,000 won’t make any different.”
During the committee session, Rabin complained that the IDF was so occupied in the West Bank and Gaza Strip guarding settlements that it was not training sufficiently.
Later in the day, the Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, a leading settlers group, retorted that if the IDF was spending its time needlessly on anything, it was on the defense of the self-rule accord Israel signed last fall with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
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.