TEL AVIV (Feb. 15)
Wide differences have emerged between Israel and the U. S. during Defense Secretary Harold Brown’s three-day visit over their concepts of the Middle East situation in light of the Iranian revolution, the overall American strategy in the region and the apparent unwillingness of the Americans to fill more than part of Israel’s latest weapons requests.
After extensive talks between Brown and Israeli leaders, observers here expressed perplexity over the failure of the U. S. to perceive the latest developments with the same urgency as the Israelis do and to after its strategy accordingly. The Israelis, moreover, are deeply distressed that Washington’s policy still relies an Arab alliance to preserve stability in the region rather than on Israel or the creation of an Israeli-Egyptian axis.
They believe that the U. S. views Israel as the chief obstacle to improved relations with the Arab states and there fore seeks to extract more concessions from Israel to advance a peace treaty with Egypt on the latter’s terms. Premier Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan reportedly mode it clear to Brown that they do not approve of this approach and that Israel has already reached the danger point beyond which it will make no concessions.
ISSUE-OF THE REVOLUTION IN IRAN
The Iranian crisis is viewed quite differently by Israel and the U. S. Israel sees the take over in Teheran by the followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khoumeini as having completely changed the strategic map and military balance in the Middle East.
They have expressed concern that Khoumeini will align Iran with the Arab rejectionist states and the Palestine Liberation Organization and may, within a year or two, confront Israel with Iranian troops on its eastern border. In broader terms, they claim that Khoumeini’s wave of Islamic militancy is fueled by the Communists and therefore poses a grave threat to American and of her Western interests in the region.
Brown and his aides have taken a less apocalyptic view of the situation. The Defense Secretary has told reporters that the crisis in Iran was not necessarily a serious blow to the U. S., that he was convinced that Khoumelini’s people would draw closer to the U. S. and that the situation called for watchful waiting rather than panic and hasty reaction. Brown was not shaken in his belief by the violent events of the past two days — the overrunning of the U. S. Embassy in Teheran by a leftist guerrilla band and the murder of the U. S. Ambassador in Kabul, Afghanistan.
BROWN RAISES NEW ALARMS
The American intention is to strengthen pro-Western regimes in the region. In this connection, Brown reportedly spoke of plans to supply arms to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and there by raised new alarms in Israel. Both Begin and Dayan expressed serious concern over plans to provide the Egyptians and Saudis with sophisticated weaponry and warned that an American-Inspired arms race would undermine stability in the region.
A Defense Ministry spokesman tried to minimize the significant differences of opinion between the Israelis and the visiting Americans. In a statement last night, the Ministry said “Israel laid before Brown and his aides a comprehensive seven-year (arms) acquisition program based on the strategic reality as we see it. The Americans seem to have accepted most of the thematic arguments put forward by us without comment.”
But it was learned from reliable sources today that the American indicated that Israel’s requests, based on deliveries of $1.5 billion worth of military items per year, would be most only in part. The Americans believe that $1 billion a year will suffice. They were also said to have told the Israelis that they would receive more arms only if Saudi Arabia and Egypt received more.
ACHIEVED A MODEST SUCCESS
The Israelis achieved one modeast success during Brown’s visit. The U. S. has consistently barred formal visits by American officials to the West Bank and other Arab territories administered by Israel on grounds that such visits might intimate American acceptance of Israeli sovereignty in the occupied lands. Despite advice to the contrary from the U. S. Embassy, Brown agreed to a flying tour of military sites on the Golan Heights and West Bank yesterday and visited Sinai as well as the Negev today.
The Israelis wanted to give the Defense Secretary and the military experts accompanying him a first-hand look at their security problems. The emphasis was on the West Bank where Jordanian artillery once menaced Israel’s narrow coastal plain. The intention was to convince the Americans of Israel’s need to retain military control of the territory. The inspection tour of the Sinai and Negev was connected with the new military air bases the U. S. has promised to help Israel build in the Negev to replace those it will relinquish when it withdraws from Sinai under a peace treaty with Egypt.
There was no press coverage permitted of Brown’s visits to the occupied areas. The Defense Secretary did reiterate the American promise to cover the costs of the new air fields. In fact, he has stressed repeatedly during his visit America’s unalterable commitment to ensure Israel’s security.
But political and security Sources here have expressed the opinion that Brown’s visit to Israel was little more than a polite gesture rather than a serious working tour. The Defense Secretary visited Saudi Arabia and Jordan before coming to Israel and will go to Egypt tomorrow.