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Rabin Outlines View on Settlements in Speech to World Jewish Gathering

July 1, 1992
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Yitzhak Rabin began mending fences with the Bush administration Tuesday, with his first speech before an international Jewish gathering since his election victory last week.

While in the weeks prior to the election, the Bush administration made moves to repair its relations with the American Jewish community, the Labor Party leader’s remarks represent the first Israeli effort at healing the wounds inflicted by the bitter battle over loan guarantees.

The battle was instigated by President Bush’s opposition to the settlement policies of the out-going Likud government, which Rabin opposes as well. Rabin has distinguished between “political” settlements and “strategic” ones, saying he would freeze construction of those that have no security purpose.

But in Washington, a senior State Department official refused Tuesday to make that distinction when pressed by lawmakers. The Bush administration has conditioned the loan guarantees on Israel adopting a complete settlement freeze.

Speaking before the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors here, Rabin stressed America’s longstanding support for Israel.

“I’ve seen in this relationship a unique asset to Israel,” he said. “For Israel, this relationship has opened and produced tremendous opportunities to strengthen our military capabilities, to enhance our stance on the international scene and to benefit us economically.”

He attributed any strain in relations between the two countries to the Likud’s settlement activities in the territories and added: “We have to forge a better relationship between the leaders of the two countries.”

“It doesn’t mean we have to agree with every one of America’s policies,” he said. “It means sometimes there can be ups and downs in the relationship.”


The Labor Party leader played down Washington’s refusal to grant Israel the loan guarantees, which would cover $10 billion Israel hopes to borrow to aid immigrant absorption.

“Let’s not forget that in the last eight years, we received $24 billion in grants from the United States, mainly to maintain our military strength,” he said.

“I don’t think the United States has offered any country in the world government guarantees for $10 billion, especially not to a small country with 5 million people.”

The presumed next prime minister warned that Israel cannot bank on getting the American loan guarantees, even with the change in government.

“I don’t know what changes will take place in the international scene,” he said. “I can foresee the U.S. turning inward to cope with its own socio-economic problems. Who knows what will happen with the readiness of the American people to continue to offer us the $10 billion?”

Therefore, Rabin asserted, “we must change our priorities and use our own money to create the environment that will encourage investment from outside. This will help us secure loans on a large scale.”

In a clear attack on the Likud’s policy of establishing settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Rabin stated, “You can argue about whether to return or not to return territory, but to spend the amount of money that was budgeted in the last 2 1/2 years on political, rather than strategic settlements, is unacceptable.

“For us to spend money, it has to be clear that these are strategic settlements,” he said.


But whether that distinction will be unacceptable to the Bush administration remains unclear.

In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Edward Djerejian was asked at a congressional hearing Tuesday whether Rabin’s policy of opposing political settlements while maintaining support of security settlements corresponds with the administration’s view.

“We have made abundantly clear that U.S. policy is opposed to settlements as an obstacle to peace,” replied Djerejian, who heads the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs.

“Are you saying all statements?” asked Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.).

“I’m just reiterating what U.S. policy is,” replied Djerejian, adding that he was deliberately refraining from discussing specific policies while Rabin was still in the middle of assembling a governing coalition.

“We think it’s prudent not to be commenting on these matters at this point,” Djerejian to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.

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