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In Israeli Campaign, Parties Shade Position on Security Issue

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / June 16, 1992


AS next week's Israeli elections draw near and voters ponder the questions of national security that have traditionally been the defining issues in this country's political life, hawks and doves are donning unfamiliar plumage.

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The ruling Likud Party, long known for its no-compromise stand on Israel's territorial claims, is trumpeting its participation in the current Middle East negotiations, and has made its moves toward regional peace a cornerstone of its campaign.

The opposition Labor Party, meanwhile, more often identified as dovish, has been staking out strong security-minded positions as it seeks to woo former Likud voters suspicious of the Arabs.

Ignoring opposition charges that the Israeli government was dragged into the Middle East peace talks against its will, Likud TV campaign spots make liberal use of footage from the Madrid peace conference last October, showing Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in the company of Arab foreign ministers.

But this does not mean that Likud is offering the prospect of any compromise with the Palestinians or with neighboring Arab countries in return for peace. Mr. Shamir has continued to insist that the occupied territories belong to Israel by historical right, that Israel will never relinquish an inch of them - and that peace is possible nonetheless.

Labor spokesmen, on the other hand, scoff at what they call this delusion, and share the widely held international view that United Nations Resolution 242, the basis on which the peace talks are being held, means that Israel will have to exchange territory for peace.

"I am willing to give up many inches of sentiments and territories - as well as 1,700,000 Arab inhabitants - for the sake of peace," Labor leader Yitzhak Rabin wrote in a recent Jerusalem Post article. "The road of the [Labor] party ... has always been that of pragmatism and compromise." At the same time, Mr. Rabin stressed, he is "unwilling to give up a single inch of Israel's security."

After winning the Six-Day War in 1967 as the head of Israel's Army, Rabin wrote, "I promised myself that I should be the last chief of staff to have to contend with the security situation resulting from the impossible borders then existing." That promise translates into the current Labor policy of insisting that a six-mile strip along the Jordan River remain under Israeli sovereignty as a security frontier, along with areas surrounding Jerusalem and a zone containing a clump of Jewish settlements south o f Jerusalem.

Labor also wants to see a joint Jordanian-Palestinian state with its capital in Amman, Jordan. "There will not be two capitals and there will not be a Palestinian state," insists Mordechai Gur, another former Israeli Army chief of staff and one of six former generals standing as Labor candidates for parliament.

"This position is very sharp and clear," says General Gur. "And many Palestinian leaders understand our security needs." However understanding they are, however, no Palestinian negotiator would accept Labor's vision of the future boundaries, which they say would emasculate the Palestinian entity.