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Modal Defends Israel’s Aid to the Christians in Lebanon

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Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai of Israel said that the Syrians “have taken hold of a great part of Lebanon and are wiping out the Christian population of Lebanon. The only country helping the Christians is Israel because we have a great interest in an independent and free Lebanon. Israel will never allow Syria to take over Lebanon or any other neighboring country to Israel.”

Modai, who was here after visiting Washington where he had talks with Reagan Administration officials, told a press conference here last Friday that is “within the power of Israel to preserve the status quo in Lebanon and if the Soviets want to intervene, then Lebanon will become an issue for the free world because it is oil territory and the gate to Asia and Africa. Israel can take risks up to a limit and is capable of eradicating the missiles Syria now has in Lebanon. Legally, and from a viewpoint of security, Israel is entitled to remove the missiles.”

Discussing his talks in Washington, Modai said he met with Secretary of Energy James Edwards and was told that increases in oil prices had nothing to do with the Israel-Arab conflict nor with the Iraqi-Iranian war. He said he had found common ground with the Reagan Administration and had not asked for any compensation to offset the American arms sales to Saudi Arabia. “I emphasized that Israel rejects or opposes any such deal and I was not seeking any compensation,” Modai said. “I asked that the (arms) deal not be implemented.”

Asked whether the strong reactions by Premier Menachem Begin of Israel to the presence of Syrian SAM-6 missiles in Lebanon was in part motivated by the approaching elections in Israel next June, Modai replied: “We spent too much blood already to play with more blood of Israeli soldiers for the sake of an election. But elections will not stop us from securing our borders.”

DEFENDS BEGIN’S CRITICISM OF SCHMIDT

Regarding Begin’s denunciation of Chancellor. Helmut Schmidt of West Germany, Modai said “the behavior of Chancellor Schmidt indicates a denial of the responsibility of the German people for the victims of the Holocaust.” The Israeli energy minister noted that almost at the same time that Schmidt was ignoring the Holocaust, in a television interview on the day Israel was commemorating Yom Ha’Shoah, President Reagan said in a Yom Ha’Shoah ceremony at the White House that the world must remember the Holocaust. “I say for Chancellor Schmidt to forget it goes against the grain and against humanity,” Modai said.

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