In Israeli Campaign, Parties Shade Position on Security Issue
JERUSALEM — 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.
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.
But Labor's attitude to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories may be more acceptable to the Palestinians than Likud's determination to keep building settlements as fast as possible.
While the Likud government spent about $1.1 billion on settlements last year, according to the Peace Now watchdog group, Labor has pledged a one-year freeze. "We have to redirect our priorities," the Labor leader told a rally last week. "Instead of spending all that money on political settlements, we should be spending it on education, housing, and social projects."
While the party platform envisages strengthening settlements along the Jordan valley, the future of the Jewish communities in areas to be given back is less certain. "That is a civilian issue that has to be resolved between us and the Jordanian-Palestinian state," Gur says. "We will recommend that the settlements should remain."
In the meantime, Labor subscribes to substantially the same vision of autonomy for the Palestinians, during a five-year interim period, that Likud officials are currently negotiating - a concept of personal, rather than territorial autonomy that the Palestinians reject.
The difference in the two parties' positions, Gur says, is that "we mean business. We mean to implement it as fast as possible" - Rabin has talked of concluding negotiations within six to nine months - "while the Likud is dragging its feet." As far as the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967 are concerned, both Likud and Labor agree on their importance to Israel's security. But while Shamir has pledged not to cede an inch of territory, Rabin proposed last week that Israel might pull back a little w ay, although "even in peace, going down from the Golan is unimaginable."
While Likud's hard-line stance in future negotiations with Israel's Arab neighbors is relatively predictable in the light of its performance over the past six months, evaluating Labor's likely approach is harder, observers here say.
Should Rabin end up leading a national-unity government including the Likud, which seems the most likely outcome of the June 23 vote, his options will be limited.
But even with a clear-cut victory at the polls and a freer hand thereafter, Labor's path is likely to be dogged by conflicts within the party between the hawkish wing led by Rabin and the more flexible young guard, who did unexpectedly well in recent internal party elections.
Likud spokesmen have accused Rabin of being a "prisoner in a dovecote," playing on fears that Labor would not be firm enough in any negotiations it undertook with the Arabs.
At the other end of the spectrum, peace activist Galia Golan sees Labor "speaking with two voices - one ready to make the necessary sacrifices, and the other coming out with positions that would make a peace agreement impossible." Given a free hand, however, Ms. Golan expects a Labor government "to compromise on things they say they won't, because they are pragmatists.
"They believe in territorial compromise," she points out. "So in the end, it would just be a question of how much territory."