Rabin solidifies U.S. ties

October 5, 1995 - David Twersky, MWJN Editor-in-Chief

In Washington last week, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin solidified ties with the Clinton administration receiving new financial and technological U.S. support and saw growing international support for the peace process with the Palestinians.

"It was a unique opportunity," Rabin said in a Saturday evening, Sept. 30, interview with the editors of several Jewish newspapers. About the only thing Rabin did not get was a commitment from President Bill Clinton to reconsider the plight of Jonathan Pollard.

In a meeting with Rabin, Clinton agreed to lift restrictions on the use of loan guarantees and to drop the penalty for funding settlements in the territories, freeing up significant monies for immigrant absorption. The president also agreed to upgrade the quality of supercomputers available to Israel.

In his Sept. 30 presentation to editors, the prime minister listed the accomplishments of his government, defended his controversial peace agreements with the PLO, fingered what he referred to as "the real threat" to Israel"s existence "Muslim fundamentalism backed by Iran" and called for a renewal of the historic partnership between Israel and American Jewry, to be based on helping Israel integrate new immigrants and on ensuring the collective survival of the Jewish people. He repeated his criticisms of American Jews who oppose his policies and his call for increased funding of absorption in Israel.

Rabin said he asked Clinton to consider the fact that Israel is releasing more than 2,000 Palestinian prisoners as part of its agreement with the PLO when he thinks about Pollard, who is now serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

"I didn't link" the two issues, Rabin said, but merely asked the president "to bear it in mind."

But Clinton "didn"t answer me," he said.

Rabin's assessment of his American Jewish critics was harsh, calling the attempts "to try to undermine the policy of a democratically elected government...unprecedented" in the long course of Israel's relations with American Jewry.

He said he had inherited a diplomatic policy based on a "masquerade" negotiating with Palestinians from the territories who had been approved by and received marching orders from the PLO in Tunis. "I decided to end the masquerade," he said.

The next logical step, Rabin said, was to explore whether the PLO was "serious," would agree to halt terrorism and to a phased solution in which self-government would come first and a permanent solution only later. "We needed a partner on the Palestinian side," Rabin said, where "there are only two alternatives " either the PLO under Yasser Arafat or the extreme Islamic terrorist groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad."

The prime minister underscored the continuity of Israeli policy, noting that, in the 1978 Camp David accords with Egypt, the late Menachem Begin "returned every square inch" and "uprooted every settlement."

Despite this precedent, Israel is now proceeding more cautiously on both the Syrian and Palestinian fronts, Rabin insisted. The Syrians are faulting him for not being as generous as Begin was with Egypt; the Palestinian agreements have not yet uprooted a single settlement and still involve a fraction, albeit a growing one, of the land in dispute.

"I am attacked for abandoning" the settlers, he said. But Israel has retained responsibility for security on external borders of the territories (for example, between Gaza and Egypt) and for the bypass roads and settlements. In Hebron, 450 Jews live among 120,000 Palestinians. "What right have I to say to the Palestinians that they can't have elections in Hebron not under Israeli bayonets," the prime minister said. "Try to imagine if it was the opposite."

Rabin was keen on offering his vision for Zionism and Israel, a vision he contrasted both implicitly and explicitly with others.

"For me, Israel is a Jewish state covering as much as possible of the Land of Israel, at its heart a united Jerusalem and with security lines to defend against any real threat."

A Jewish state must be made up of "at least 80 percent" Jewish citizens, he said.

"I believe in Judaism, in our faith and religious values," Rabin said. "Racism and Judaism are a contradiction." Therefore, he opposes annexation of the bulk of the West Bank and Gaza to Israel.

"Annexation will undermine the Jewishness of the Jewish state. It will become a binational state" with 4.5 million Jews and more than 3 million Palestinians.

"We have to choose between a Jewish state and a binational state." Terrorism, Rabin said, is "the main obstacle." But the PLO has stopped its own terrorism.

"In the last two years, not one Israeli has been killed by PLO terrorism," Rabin said. The real threat, he said, does not come from Israel's old adversaries - he pointedly included Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in the faded threat category - but from "the ugly wave of" Iranian-supported Islamic fundamentalism.

Rabin said criticism that his policies lack the support of a majority of Jewish Knesset deputies begs the question of whether Israel could manage as a de facto binational state. "How can they say so and call for the annexation of 2.2 million non-Jews?"

That would leave Israel with unacceptable choices: "transfer" (forced expulsion) or an "apartheid" system, denying Arabs "civilian and political rights." For Rabin, the reasonable choice is partition. "I prefer not to have the whole Land of Israel and not to have 2.2 million Palestinians."

See Also:
  • 1999: The Washington Shuk: Media Release