WASHINGTON (Aug. 22)
The United States said today that Israel’s use of American military equipment in defense of Christian villagers in southern Lebanon from the assaults of the Palestine Liberation Organization did not violate any U.S. law or Israeli-American agreements. Israeli Premier Menachem Begin had said Israeli artillery has shelled Palestinian military groupings that were focal points of attacks on Christians near the Israeli border.
State Department spokesman John Trattner said that if Israel supplied the Lebanese Christians with U.S.-made rifles it would constitute a violation of the U.S. agreement with Israel. But there would be no violation if Israel transferred to the Christians weapons not manufactured in the U.S.
“We have concluded that such use of U.S. equipment does not violate any U.S. law or agreement,” Trattner said. He added, in response to questions, that under U.S.-Israeli agreements, Israel cannot transfer American-supplied equipment without receiving U.S. government permission. “Israel has assured us that it has not transferred to any party in the Lebanese conflict any U.S.-origin equipment which would fall under such an agreement,” Trattner said.
He said Israel has informed the U.S. about its use of equipment but had not consulted with the U.S. about its use. He said he could not be specific to what use the U.S. equipment has been put, or precisely what equipment was used, or when Israel had supplied information about their use to U.S. officials.
Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency who was supplying the PLO with military equipment to use in the fighting in Lebanon, Trattner said he would try to obtain the information. He was also asked whether the U.S. would countenance Syria and Egypt with reportedly supplying the PLO with weapons while those countries are receiving U.S. economic assistance. He said there were no military aspects in the economic agreement.
Trattner said he had no comment regarding United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim making statements critical of Israel for legalizing Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He also said he was not informed of a report that the French government is seeking a consensus among European Economic Community members to support an anti-Israel resolution in the UN about the settlements on the West Bank.