(Communicated by Prime Minister’s Media Advisor) 25 May 1995
The following are excerpts from an interview with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Army Radio’s "Good Morning Israel" program today
Interviewer: Now that this cork has been released, what is going to come out of the bottle?
Rabin: We are dealing with neither corks nor bottles. We are engaged in serious negotiations with the goal of both achieving a peace treaty with Syria that will give us peace, that is, in itself, a main component of peace and of course, agreeing on four components with Syria. The first component is the peace border. There is no agreement between Syria and Israel on where the peace border will be. The second component is the duration of the withdrawal to that peace border, which has yet to be agreed upon, how many years it will take. The third component is the need to meet the normalization test over a number of years. That is, a symbolic withdrawal on the Golan Heights, and putting the Syrians to the test, vis- a-vis the need after this withdrawal, in the framework of the overall agreement to implement normalization, i.e. an embassy in Damascus, borders open to the movement of people and goods. The fourth component is security procedures that will ensure that everything that happens is indeed implemented in a series of demilitarized zones, areas of reduced forces, early warning procedures, a presence which will supervise the military appendix of the peace treaty, as we have in Sinai, regarding our peace treaty with Egypt. What has been agreed to now, concerns the fourth component only, the security procedures.
Interviewer: In your set of four components, this is fourth, last. Was this according to a list of priorities: peace border, duration of withdrawal…?
Rabin: No, each of them, or to be more exact in regard to an agreement between Syria and Israel that covers all four components, they are the condition for signing a peace treaty. It is impossible to deal with each component separately. At the moment, the agreement between us and the Syrians an agreement that was achieved through the United States deals with security procedures, because they are very important, in a reality that is not yet based on peace, for example, like between us and Egypt, and between us and Jordan.
Interviewer: Mr. Prime Minister, can the overcoming of this obstacle ensure that in the coming stages it will be easier to reach solutions?
Rabin: I think that experience has thought us that we should address matters as they can be assessed, at the same time that we talk, that we talk among ourselves. I very much hope that we will build confidence and, if successful, achieve an agreement on security procedures. This could make things easier in other areas. But why deal in speculation? The test for any political issue is when you achieve, or do not achieve, an agreement with that Arab side which is negotiating with the objective of putting an end to wars and violence, and establishing peaceful relations.
Interviewer: Then, it is possible to say everything is now open, the players are returning to the field: the officers, in order to discuss security procedures, with the opening point being that there is no agreement on demilitarization, force limits, and warning stations.
Rabin: From our point of view, the obstacle up to now has been the Syrian demand to define something we agreed to what the goals are, and what the framework is. The Syrians wanted to determine in advance that the principle of parity which, in the overall view, means that each arrangement must give security to both sides would also apply to geographic considerations.
Interviewer: And on this point, did we really get what we wanted?
Rabin: On this point. This is not to say that the Syrians did not insist on it in the negotiations, but the framework does not require agreement in advance on parity.
Interviewer: You previously mentioned the building of confidence, at least officially. In its information efforts, Syria continues to maintain a very harsh even extremist line. This latest achievement is being touted as an Israeli capitulation.
Rabin: So? We are used to the fact that, occasionally, when an Arab player agrees to something, he must present it as an achievement. It does not matter to me if they have such achievements in the future too.
Interviewer: There is at least the impression that a war of nerves has been conducted for some time, behind fortified positions, until someone you or Assad shows a crack, some sign of a willingness to compromise, maybe weakness, depending on how you look at it. In this war, assuming that that is what it is, how will you instruct our officers, who will soon be leaving for Washington?
Rabin: As you will remember, in the first stage, the officers’ talks began in the autumn of last year. There was a meeting between Syrian Chief of Staff Shihabi and Lt.-Gen. Ehud Barak, then Chief of Staff. There was a series of conversations which continued for eight hours, in which both sides presented their views regarding the security procedures. In fact, some of what was agreed to, was based on those same conversations held previously, and are meant to complete them, in order to enable the talks to continue.
Interviewer: Now, Mr. Prime Minister, there is a strengthening of the domestic front against you. The Golan communities are again threatening to escalate the war against the agreement, and are saying that they will bring you down, before you bring them down from the Golan Heights.
Rabin: I realize that there is a debate, and that the debate is legitimate. I only want to remind the Israeli public that as Prime Minister, I made it known, and I reiterate, that the agreement if it leads to a significant withdrawal, without my defining its territorial scope will be presented to the people for a decision in a referendum. That is, if and when we achieve a peace treaty that satisfies the Government, the Government will present it to the people, and the people will decide if they are for or against the agreement. I think that such a thing has never been done, even when
for example we withdrew from all of Sinai, and uprooted the entire Israeli presence in Sinai, in order to sign a peace treaty with Egypt. I think that that was a very important decision that was to the credit of the then Prime Minister, the late Menahem Begin, who had the courage, the imagination, and the ability to make that decision, whose benefits positive benefits from Israel’s political and strategic standpoint we are enjoying today.