Washington (May. 19)
Ephraim Evron, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, declared here last night that Israel will do everything that “is humanly possible” to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis in Lebanon, but warned Israel “cannot tolerate” the security threat posed by the Syrian anti-aircraft missiles.
“All we ask Syria is to go back to the situation that existed before the hostilities that were launched by them in early April,” Evron told the
more than 1,000 persons attending a dinner at the 22nd annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The Israeli Ambassador declared that “Israel has always maintained that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon should be upheld and respected.” But he said Israel “can not sit by and watch” Lebanon be occupied by another country or used as a terrorist base against Israel, or watch the Christian population there being “annihilated” and “do nothing.”
In addition to AIPAC members from across the country, the audience which heard Evron included members of the House and Senate, representatives of Jewish groups from other countries, a large contingent from the Israel Embassy, two Israel Knesset members, and three officials from the Egyptian Embassy. Those on the dias included representatives from the White House and three Assistant Secretaries of State. Lawrence Weinberg, president of AIPAC, noted that American support for Israel has always been “broad-based and bipartisan.”
THE MAJOR ISSUE IS THE ARMS SALE TO THE SAUDIS
The major issue for the delegates at the two-day meeting, which ended today, was the Reagan Administration’s proposed sale to Saudi Arabia of AWACS and enhancement equipment for the 62 F-15 fighter planes previously purchased. Weinberg, while praising the Administration’s general attitude toward Israel, said the AIPAC members were “dismayed and in total opposition” to the arms package.
Evron touched only briefly on the proposed sale, saying he hoped the Administration “will reconsider this deal.” He said the sale will not enhance the security position of the United States and w#ll eventually pose a “very serious security problem for Israel.”
The same position was taken by the other two major speakers last night, Senators Roger Jepsen (R. Iowa) and Bill Bradley (D. N.J.). They stressed that the sale would not only threaten Israel but would also not be in the best interest of the United States.
Bradley linked the sale to the situation in Lebanon and said such sales would make Israel’s enemies less amenable to reach peace with Israel and embolden them to take such moves as Syria has done in Lebanon.
Jepsen stressed that while the U.S. should try to improve relations with Arab countries, it would not be at Israel’s expense. He argued that the proposed sale to the Saudis did not include a promise from them that they would recognize Israel, end their subsidy to the Palestine Liberation Organization, drop their boycott of Egypt, or move to support the Camp David agreements.
Jepsen praised the Reagan Administration for expelling the Libyan Embassy staff. He said it should also have closed down the PLO information office here. He said if the law does not allow the U.S. to do this, the law should be changed.
CONDITIONS FOR SALE OF ARMS
At a luncheon meeting today, Rep. Jack Kemp (R. NY) pledged that “there will be no sale” of AWACS or enhancement equipment to Saudi Arabia as long as the Saudis do not support the Camp David process, as long as they “embrace the PLO” and as long as they are waging a “jihad” against Israel.
Kemp stressed that it is the Soviet Union “that is the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East.” He said there is a need for an American ground presence in the region to meet that threat and added that such a presence might encourage the countries in the region to go on with the peace process.
Speaking of the Syrian missiles in Lebanon, Kemp declared that Israel can no more allow Soviet-made Syrian missiles in Lebanon than the U.S. could allow Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1963. He said this was an American issue, not just an Israeli issue.