JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, rejecting past Israeli claims to the West Bank and other occupied Arab territories, is calling on his countrymen to abandon the concept of a "Greater Land of Israel" and to give up that land for peace with their Arab neighbors.
In one of his strongest appeals for withdrawing from occupied Arab territory, Mr. Rabin told Israelis that they simply could not hope to control all of biblical Israel and that trying to do so would put the Jewish state at risk.
"We must cut ourselves off from the religion of the Greater Land of Israel and remember that the strength of a nation is not measured in the territories it controls," Mr. Rabin said, "but by its beliefs and its ability to develop social, economic and security systems."
Although Mr. Rabin had made clear throughout the spring election campaign that he would pursue "land-for-peace" negotiations with Israel's neighbors, the prime minister drew an even sharper line between himself and Yitzhak Shamir, his ultra-Zionist predecessor, on this fundamental question.
Mr. Rabin seemed at once to be attempting to persuade still-skeptical Arabs, notably the Palestinians, of Israel's sincerity the renewed Middle East peace talks in Washington and to be preparing Israelis for the massive retreat likely under a peace treaty.
"Philosophically, ideologically and politically, Rabin is defining his government's position, first of all, on the peace process," a senior Western diplomat commented, "and he is rejecting as a starting point the whole 'Land of Israel' concept that guided the country for the past 15 years as it settled more and more Arab land.
"But Rabin is also articulating a vision of Israel that he believes the majority of the nation shares and that he hopes will shape the country as it enters the 21st century, and this will evolve further."
Mr. Rabin addressed a conference of the Washington Institute for Mid-East Research and then the annual meeting of the Israeli Manufacturers Association in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, but his remarks were published only yesterday.
Israel, Mr. Rabin told the business executives, has only limited time to make peace.
"The Israeli government is taking risks to advance the peace process in the Middle East," he said. "We have a period of about two to five years in which the dangers to our security are lower because of the changes in the international reality."
After that, he implied, the balance of power in the region and the world at large could quickly shift against Israel.