U.S. troops sought as guarantors of Israel-Syria peace

October 04, 1994|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said that U.S. troops will be required to guarantee peace between Israel and Syria, and predicted that a formal peace treaty with Jordan will be reached this year.

"Today, 980 American soldiers are stationed in the Sinai" to observe compliance of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, Mr. Rabin noted. He said he will ask "the same thing" to ensure a peace treaty with Syria.

His support of stationing American troops on the Golan Heights provoked an outburst of criticism by opposition members of the Israeli parliament during Mr. Rabin's annual speech at the start of the Knesset session.

As Mr. Rabin spoke in Jerusalem, President Clinton in Washington was overseeing new steps toward joint cooperation between Jordan and Israel.

Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan in Washington agreed to a variety of mutual ventures, including further development of the shared Jordan Valley, the opening of a new border crossing and U.S.-assisted creation of a "marine park" on the Red Sea.

The projects "are the building blocks of peace between these ancient lands," Mr. Clinton said at a news conference.

Jordan and Israel symbolically ended their 46-year formal state of war in July. Mr. Rabin said yesterday that negotiations will produce a formal peace treaty "shortly, before the end of the present year."

He said that in a meeting with Jordan's King Hussein last week he was promised a "warm peace." He said King Hussein promised, "In our peace, the border between Israel and Jordan will be completely insignificant."

Disputes over water rights and the exact borders with Jordan are minimal compared to the emotional battle likely to come over an agreement between Syria and Israel.

Such an agreement will require withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlements from most or all of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

Mr. Rabin repeated yesterday his pledge to bring any such treaty to a referendum. He said he would do so, however, only after the agreement is reached, and not before the negotiations are completed, as opponents demand.

"You're trying to make a deal behind the public's back and present the completed facts," the leader of the opposition Likud Party, Binyamin Netanyahu, said in his response to the prime minister's speech.

"You are going to put the meat between the lion's jaws, and then ask the people if they want to remove the meat. The right thing to do is to hold an election now."

Mr. Rabin denied that there already is a secret agreement with Syria. He said that the extent of Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights is not set. He said he wants a "test of normalization" to last three years, "during which we will hold onto most of the Golan Heights," a proposal that Syria has rejected.

He said Israel's security must be assured, which he asserted must involve reducing forces on both sides of the Golan Heights, demilitarizing more land in Syria than in Israel, and "deploying multinational forces," including U.S. troops, on the plateau.

Although the prime minister has mentioned the stationing of international troops before, his speech yesterday made clear that the presence of American soldiers to separate Syrian and Israeli troops is a part of the continuing negotiations.

The Knesset, habitually raucous during the prime minister's speech, erupted with shouts from opposition members at Mr. Rabin's reference to U.S. troops. Opponents argue that Israel should not rely on American forces.

"No observers . . . will prevent Syrian violations," Mr. Netanyahu said.

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