Jerusalem (Apr. 6)
Secretary of State Alexander Haig flew from Israel to Jordan this afternoon after a 24-hour stay in Jerusalem. He held intensive talks yesterday and today with both government and opposition Israeli leaders. One key session was with the top echelon of the Israeli defense establishment under Premier Menachem Begin who is also the Defense Minister.
Israeli sources said “practical conclusions” were “reached” at that meeting. This appeared to hint at Israeli expectations of increased American economic and military aid to “balance” Washington’s intended sale of advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia.
During the talks with Haig the Israelis were particularly forceful in their opposition to the planned U.S. sale of AWACS–aerial intelligence systems–to the Saudis. According to some sources, Haig was less than totally committed to that sale. But there was no sense that he had dropped the idea completely.
One well placed American source said here that the Secretary of State intended to impress upon the Saudi rulers, whom he will see in Riyadh tomorrow, the need for Saudi political flexibility on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The basic idea that Haig is selling on this brief Mideast swing that includes Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, is a “strategic consensus” between America’s friends in the region as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. Repeatedly he warned against Soviet intentions, stressing that the Russians were out to extend their influence directly and through their “surrogates.” In the latter category he appeared to include the Palestine Liberation Organization and Syria. He even suggested the possibility that current Syrian aggressiveness towards the Christians in Lebanon was Soviet-inspired to deflect attention from the Polish crisis.
TWO-FOLD MESSAGE TO ISRAEL
To Israel, Haig’s message was two-fold: On the one hand he sought to convince his Israeli hosts of the need to focus on the global and regional Soviet threat. And at the same time he sought to assure the Israelis that the Reagan Administration saw in them a strategic asset and would act to ensure Israel’s continued strength and “qualitative edge”–in Haig’s own words–over the Arab potential enemies of the Jewish State.
The overall feeling among Israeli observers was that Haig was perhaps hoping that Israel and the pro-Western Arab states will “lower the profile” of the Arab-Israel conflict so that they can work together with the U.S. in forming a united front against Soviet or Soviet-backed expansionism.
Haig forcefully condemned the “brutal” Syrian shelling of Christian areas in north Lebanon and stressed American efforts to bring about a ceasefire. He disclosed that UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim sent a special emissary to Syrian President Hafez Assad to try and end the fighting between the Syrians and the Christians. Last night Haig met in his hotel suite for more than an hour with Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. The two men had planned to meet in Washington two weeks ago but Kollek had had to cancel.
The Mayor said he reviewed the situation in the city and discussed his own long-held ideas for a “borough” system of municipal rule that would give Arab residents a much greater say in the day-to-day management of Jerusalem.
Early this morning Haig breakfasted with Labor Party leaders Shimon Peres and Abba Eban. Peres said later that they had agreed on the exclusion of the PLO from peace negotiations and on the exclusion of a separate Palestinian state as a solution to the West Bank-Gaza issue. Peres indicated that the focus of the conversation had been on the Labor Party’s hopes to involve Jordan in the peace process.
Apart from his crowded diplomatic schedule, Haig found time to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and to pay a courtesy call on President Yitzhak Navon.
MEETING WITH SADAT TERMED FRUITFUL
Before arriving here yesterday, Haig met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Cairo on Saturday. The American diplomat reportedly won Sadat’s agreement for the presence of U.S. troops in the multi-national force and the Egyptian leader also was reported to be more flexible in allowing American units to utilize Egyptian military facilities to deal with crises in the Middle East. Haig described his talks with Sadat as “extremely fruitful.”
He apparently convinced Sadat that American participation would be only in the peacekeeping group and would be equipped with no more than light infantry weapons. While the Egyptians have been amenable to American use of their facilities, they are opposed to American bases on Egyptian soil, including the two Israeli-built airfields in Sinai at Eitam and Etzion.