TEL AVIV (Sep. 20)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman flatly denied, on his return from Washington today, that he had committed Israel to getting United States consent before it undertakes retaliatory strikes against terrorist bases in south Lebanon, using American-made weapons. “No commitment was made by me at any time that Israel will consult with the Americans in connection with activities in south Lebanon,” Weizman told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport.
He was referring to reports that he had given such an undertaking to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee during an off-the-record meeting last Monday. “When speaking to the Congress committee I used the phrase ‘compare notes,” Weizman said, adding, “Israel and the U.S. have compared notes before and will do so in the future. But there was no Israeli commitment given to have an American consent for use of American weapons in south Lebanon. We shall do what we think ought to be done.
Weizman’s remarks today were at variance with the version given reporters in Washington Tuesday by Rep. Paul Findley (R.III.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee who has been sharply critical of Israel’s use of American-supplied weaponry in Lebanon.
According to Findley, the Israeli defense chief told him that “if Israel in the future should find it necessary to use U. S. -supplied military equipment in any preemptive strikes, it would first talk with the United States. ” Findley hailed that promise as “a significant and gratifying change in Israel’s military policy.”
CANNOT AVOID EXCHANGING VIEWS
Although Weizman stressed that “we need not have an American permission to act,” he acknowledged that Israel cannot avoid exchanging
Weizman went to Washington a week ago to discuss, among other things, Israel’s future military needs with top Pentagon and State Department officials. He said the U.S. is ready to supply most of Israel’s requests but the problem is financial. He doubted that the U.S. would increase its grants to Israel. Before he left, Israel informed Washington that it would need $3.4 billion to cover its deficits in the next fiscal year, nearly double the amount of current U.S. aid.
Nevertheless, Weizman seemed satisfied with the outcome of his talks in Washington. “We have agreed and signed documents for the purchase of certain arms systems,” he said, without elaborating. But he indicated that no agreement was reached on Israel’s request for co-production rights for U.S. combat planes. “As for the planes, another Israeli team will shortly visit the U.S. to negotiate this issue,” he said.