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Special Interview Israel’s Image in the U.s

“It is in America’s best interest not to create one more direct confrontation state in the Middle East by selling 60 F-15s to Saudi Arabia,” Uri Ben Ari, Israel’s Consul General in New York City, said here today. He was in the State capital at the invitation of Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut to brief the Assemblymen and Senators on Israel’s policy. More than 70 legislators attended the breakfast meeting.

In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ben Ari conceded that Israel’s image is suffering in the United States. He attributed it to several factors. “First,” he said, “American oil consumption, dependent on the Arabs, is constantly growing. In addition, tens of billions of Arab dollars are invested in the United States in banks, universities, real estate and elsewhere and big business is available to Americans in Arab countries. There is the drive to get the buck wherever you can get one and to bend morality while you are doing so.”

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem last fall is also a factor in Israel’s declining image in the U.S., Ben Ari said. “People don’t understand that besides announcing he would accept Israel as a country in the Middle East, Sadat didn’t give an inch. The public relations impact of Sadat’s visit captured Americans’ imagination, and people now aren’t interested in the details of a peace plan. People liked Sadat’s dramatic step,” he explained, “and this will be very difficult to counteract until all the facts come through.”

Ben Ari said he feels that Americans are looking to their own backyards now and are tired of foreign policy in general. Questioned about Israel’s emphasis on securing defensible borders at a time when sophisticated weapons seem to negate such a necessity, Ben Ari, a Reserve brigadier general, explained that “you don’t win a war with missiles.” He said that if a border has a natural defense it could be held by Israel if attacked for a longer period while it had to mobilize its reserves.

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