WASHINGTON (Jun. 27)
Shimon Peres, Israel’s Defense Minister, said yesterday he was returning to Israel today with “an encouraged spirit” because of the “basic understanding I have met” in three days of intensive meetings here with key U.S. officials. Peres met briefly with newsmen late yesterday before attending a closed meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He met earlier yesterday with Acting Secretary of State Joseph Sisco for almost three hours at the State Department and before that with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger before Kissinger left for Moscow with President Nixon. Peres also met for almost three hours with Defense Secretary James Schlesinger at the Pentagon.
Israeli diplomatic officials here indicated that in his conversations, Peres discussed Israel’s present and future needs for its security and the necessity to proceed both in the direction of aiding Israel and convincing the Arabs of the need for peace. It was indicated that Schlesinger was very much forthcoming towards Israel’s request for arms assistance and has a deep understanding of Israel’s requirements for security. He reportedly told Peres that without a secure Israel, little can be done towards a settlement in the Middle East.
Peres was presumed to have made clear that unless all parts of the disengagement agreements with Egypt and Syria are fulfilled, little chance existed for adequate negotiations in other areas. While Peres was encouraged by his first visit to Washington as Defense Minister, it seemed plain that he was not completely satisfied on what he set forth as Israel’s requirements. No official, Israeli or American, would confirm the persistent reports that Israel is asking for $1.5 billion in armaments over the next four or five years. Peres came to Washington to follow up President Nixon’s pledge to strengthen Israel on his visit there ten days ago.
It is understood that Peres and the American officials discussed all phases of the Middle East situation including the plight of Syrian Jewry and the Egyptian threats to supply Lebanon with aircraft and other weapons to prevent Israeli retaliations against the Palestinian terrorists for their terror attacks against women and children in Israel. American officials were reported as seeing a hardening line by Egypt and Syria towards Israel, Whether this hardening is tactical or strategic was not certain but the change in the attitudes of the two Arab countries is recognized the officials said.
In an interview here earlier, Peres said that Israel does not have tactical nuclear weapons and would agree to allow its two research reactors to be controlled by France and the United States which supply them. The reactors are for peaceful development and electrical energy. Responding to concern in some quarters that Israel could produce plutonium, used in atomic bombs, Peres said Israel has no such plans and no such capability. “We are short both of oil and water,” Peres said according to an interview in The Washington Star News. “We have the Jordan River, but this carries more history than water. That is why we need other sources for electrical energy.”
(Peres reportedly told leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York today that the most important element in the defense of Israel is world Jewry, either through the physical presence of Jews in Israel or by their participation in support of Israel.
He spoke at an off-the-record meeting at the Presidents Conference headquarters before leaving for Israel. According to sources, Peres stressed he had tried to make U.S. officials understand that a militarily-strong Israel was needed if Mideast peace negotiations are to continue. He said they would not continue until Israel was assured that the military balance of strength was repaired, the sources said.
He also reportedly told the Jewish leaders that the costs of military equipment had soared not only because of inflation but also because of the increased sophistication of weapons. The sources said the Conference leaders seemed deeply impressed by Peres and applauded him frequently.)