Jerusalem (Feb. 5)
– Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir will meet with Secretary of State Alexander Haig in Washington later this month. News of the meeting was released in Washington last night by the Israeli Ambassador, Ephraim Evron following his 45-minute talk with Haig. Shamir is understood to have asked for the meeting to establish contact with the new American Administration and to discuss matters of Immediate concern to Israel.
Two subjects likely to be taken up are the U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia which Israel views with alarm, and the creation of a multi-national peacekeeping force to patrol Sinai after Israel completes its evacuation of the peninsula in April, 1982. No date was announced for the meeting, but Evron suggested the third week of February when Shamir will be in the U.S. en route to Mexico and Central America on a previously planned trip.
SPECULATION ABOUT A TRIPARTITE MEETING
The meeting will be the first between a senior member of Israel’s Cabinet and a top Administration official since President Reagan took office. It raised speculation here that Reagan might follow it up by inviting President Anwar Sadat and Premier Menachem Begin to Washington separately in March to explore the possibility of a tripartite summit meeting later. There has been no official word on that prospect from any of the parties.
Evron conveyed to Haig yesterday Israel’s concern that the U.S. might agree to Saudi Arabia’s request for extra fuel tanks and bomb racks to enhance the combat capabilities of the 60 F-15 warplanes it purchased from the U.S. The additional equipment would enable the aircraft to attack targets in Israel. “As long as Saudi Arabia continues its policy of hostility toward Israel our feeling is it should not be given weapons which can be used against us,” Evron was quoted as telling Haig.
When the Carter Administration agreed to sell the F-15s Saudi Arabia as part of a controversial “package deal” that involved arms to Israel and Egypt as well, Israel was assured that the planes would be equipped for defensive operations only. The first are due to be delivered to the Saudis before the end of this year.
SLOW PROGRESS ON SETTING UP PEACEKEEPING FORCE
With little more than a year to go before Israel completes its withdrawal from Sinai, the lack of progress in putting together a peacekeeping force is troubling Israel. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty provided for a United Nations force at Sharm el-Sheikh and other strategic sites in Sinai, or, failing that, a “multi-national force.”
Efforts by the U.S. so far to persuade other countries to participate in such a force have not been successful. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said to-day that Israel hoped the Reagan Administration would revive those efforts and achieve greater success.
Israel has made it clear that it will not execute its final withdrawal from Sinai unless and until the matter of peace supervision is resolved to its satisfaction. Shamir said recently that Israel would like to see the U.S. itself participate in the multinational force.