NEW YORK (Dec. 30)
Israel Defense Minister Ezer Weizman expressed the hope today that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty would be the beginning of an. “American chain” against Soviet influence in the Middle East.
Answering questions in Washington on CBSTV’s “Face the Nation,” Weizman said he welcomed increased American influence in the Midest. He said he knew this meant more American arms for Saudia Arabia and Egypt but felt it was better to “see American equipment rather than Russian” in the area. However, he added that “I hope it will be well-balanced by what we have.”
Weizman, who had come to the United States with Israel’s request for $3.4 billion in military and economic aid in the 1981 fiscal year, nearly double the $1.8 billion it is receiving in the current year, said he did not expect to get the full amount. But he said reports that the Carter Administration has proposed a $2.2 billion appropriation are untrue.
He said that President Carter, with whom he met for lunch at the White House last Friday, listened attentively and promised to consider Israel’s request. “I have not been told any figure at all,” Weizman said. The official U. S. reply will reportedly be given to Israel Ambassador Ephraim Evron in Washington tomorrow.
The Israel Defense Minister, who also met with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Defense Secretary Harold Brown and Special Ambassador Sol Linowitz last week, stressed today that Israel was not seeking more aid because it has increased its military budget. “We have cut down” the military budget since the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was signed.
But he said the problem was Israel’s economic problems, some of it due to Israel’s own mistakes and some to the peace treaty. As an example, he said with the return of the Sinai oilfields to Egypt, Israel will have to spend $2 billion for oil next year.
Much of the questioning centered around the difficulties in recent developments in Iran and Afghanistan. When asked what Israel would have done if it was it’s embassy that had been seized in the manner that the U. S. Embassy was taken in Teheran, he stressed that Israel was not a world power and did not have the responsibilities that the U. S. did.
At first he hinted that Israel might have “quietly” tried to get the hostages out but then quickly added that the Israeli rescue of hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976 was a “picnic” in comparison-to what it would take to rescue the American hostages in the Embassy in the center of Teheran.
LONG-STANDING SOVIET INFLUENCE
Weizman continuously pointed out that the Soviet influence in the Mideast was not new. He said the avert Soviet support of the coup in Afghanistan last week was similar to what the USSR did in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 and was part of the Soviet desire to put a belt of friendly nations around its borders.
He noted that Israel has had to face the Soviet Union in the Mideast for the last 25 years. “We have had the Soviets on our backs and breathing down out necks for 25 years,” Weizman said, during which time, he added, Israel destroyed 1000 Soviet planes and 2000 Soviet tanks. He said now, for the first time, the U. S. is directly involved by the situation in Afghanistan.
Asked about a report that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had offered the U. S. bases if needed, Weizman called Sadat ” courageous.” and said he would welcome the move. When pressed on whether Israel had made a similar offer, he said it did not need to. He said the U. S. knew Israel I was a close friend and would give it anything it asked for to help its security interests in the area.
In other matters, Weizman said that the Jewish settlements on the West Bank should not harm peace efforts. He said the Israel Cabinet has accepted his view that settlements should be concentrated in four or five areas rather than spread throughout the area.