JERUSALEM, FEB. 14 -- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir today released a telegram to Jewish settlers in the occupied Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, assuring them his government would not accept demilitarization of the territory or any other change in its status.
The message was seen here as the latest in a series of steps Shamir has taken in the last three weeks signaling a hard-line stand against any U.S.-led postwar peace process in which Israel would be expected to make concessions.
It followed a recent suggestion by Secretary of State James A. Baker III to Israel's ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, that demilitarization of the Golan, which Israel has annexed, might be part of a rapprochement between Israel and Syria after the Persian Gulf War, official sources said.
It also followed by hours a statement by German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher that Syria might be willing to recognize Israel as part of a comprehensive peace process.
Official sources said Shamir, who last week invited Israel's most right-wing party into his cabinet, is determined to signal Washington that any attempt to pressure Israel into making territorial concessions as part of a Middle East peace settlement will be met with stout resistance. "What we are saying is that we are not going to pay the political price afterward," Yossi Olmert, director of the Government Press Office, said.
At the same time, government officials and other observers here said they see increasing signs that American goodwill toward Israel because of its restraint under Iraqi missile attacks and its agreement not to retaliate immediately is not translating into concrete gains on other issues.
Shamir's government has "been trying to parlay the goodwill into something long-term," said Ron Kronish, the American Jewish Committee's representative in Jerusalem. "But there's a growing suspicion here that there isn't going to be much long-term benefit."
So far, Israel's attempts to win additional U.S. aid in compensation for its war damage have yielded no results. Baker has suggested that Israel try to get money from the European Community or other countries that have offered financial aid to states damaged by the war.
In a visit to Washington earlier this week, Defense Minister Moshe Arens failed to win agreement either for new aid to Israel or on a plan for Israeli military action against Iraqi missile launchers, officials said. Moreover, Israel's delegation was irritated by subsequent reports from Washington in which U.S. officials suggested that the main purpose of Arens's trip had been to lobby for money, rather than to coordinate action to protect Israel from further missile attacks.
Israeli officials point out that the State Department continues to withhold $400 million in loan guarantees for Israeli housing construction, continuing what has become a bitter, year-long dispute between the two governments over Israeli Jewish settlement of the occupied territories.
Washington has repeatedly delayed handing over the guarantees because Israel has not given firm assurances that Soviet immigrants will not be used to swell Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Also, the Pentagon has not yet delivered to Israel $700 million in military equipment promised last September, including new F-15 warplanes and missiles, officials said. The only new U.S. military equipment given to Israel has been the Patriot missile-defense batteries, which were sent after Iraq began firing Scud missiles into the country.
Israeli officials said the housing loan issue has considerable symbolic importance because of Shamir's intention to ask the Bush administration for up to $10 billion more in loan guarantees for immigrant housing over the next few years. American toughness on the issue, observers here say, indicates that Baker and President Bush may intend to use Israel's huge aid requests as leverage to pressure Shamir for concessions in a postwar peace process.