Boston (May. 6)
A high ranking State Department official assured a group of Zionist leaders that the Reagan Administration clearly supports Israel and that there “never has been an American President instinctively sympathetic to Israel” as President Reagan.
Morris Draper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, in his address here to the national exeuctive committee of the Zionist Organization of America, focused on the Administration’s proposed arms package to Saudi Arabia. He adamantly rejected the view that economic interests were an influence in the arms sale decision. He emphasized that the basis for the decision centered around the need for a credible deterrent in the area.
Draper stated that the Administration supported Israel’s security and that while there was an additional risk to Israel if the Saudis receive the arms and AWACS, it was “small” and “containable.” He described the AWACS as flying radar stations.
He said that Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States and emphasized that the State Department had sought to obtain the support of Jordan and Saudi Arabia for the Egyptian-Israeli peace process and that it has tried to get the Saudis to cut down their support of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Draper added that the U.S. does not support what he termed some of the rhetoric of Saudi Arabia and that the U.S. regrets Saudi Arabia’s call for a Jihad (holy war).
Draper also said that the U.S. has “made it abundantly clear to the European Economic Community Ministers not to do anything to undermine our Middle East process, and that we look with some nervousness at what might emerge” as a result of their Mideast initiative which includes a call for the PLO to be “associated” with the peace process.
Rep. Brian Donnolly (D. Mass.) told the meeting that the proposed arms package is “not a Jewish issue, but an American one. It is an issue that must be kept before the President, the Congress and the Republic….It must be debated as a fundamental issue of our national security, of the security of Israel and of our commitment to avoid a continuing arms buildup in the Middle East.”