Washington (Jun. 14)
Israeli Ambassador Ephraim Evron rejected last night charges that Israel had not exhausted diplomatic efforts before its Air Force destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor last Sunday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and its Commission on Social Action, Evron noted that when the late Yigal Allon was Israel’s Foreign Minister in 1966, he first warned of the danger to Israel from the nuclear plant being built in Iraq. The envoy said that since then, Israel had talked to France, which built the plant, Italy, which supplied it, and the United States.
“We talked about it, we warned about it, we pleaded about it with three Secretaries of State,” Cyrus Vance, Edmund Muskie and Alexander Haig, Evron said.
Evron told the Reform leaders that only last March, Haig expressed “concern” over the possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of such countries as Iraq. Evron said Israel’s diplomatic efforts continued but, after Francois Mitterrand was elected President of France last month, the Mitterrand government stressed it was keeping the committments of former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, including building the rector in Iraq.
“It is really astonishing that we now have to prove that we acted in self-defense,” the Israeli Ambassador said. He maintained that Israel acted no differently than did the United States in 1962 when President Kennedy imposed a naval blockade on Cuba
and threatened military action if Cuba did not remove Soviet missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Evron pointed out that Iraq does not recognize Israel’s existence and considers itself in a state of war with Israel.
Evron said Israel should not have been condemned by the United States and expressed the hope that the Reagan Administration would soon lift the suspension of delivery of the four F-16 fighter-bombers due to have been delivered last Friday. Evron said President Reagan had promised him, when they met at the White House Thursday, that the close relationship that exists between the U.S. and Israel is still the President’s policy.
Evron’s position was supported before the several hundred leaders of Reform Judaism by Rep. Edward Markey (D. Mass.) who called the Israeli raid “as bold and sudden as the Entebbe rescue mission and it was plainly done in self-defense.” Markey said “the Israeli raid was an inevitable response to the danger of nuclear terrorism.”
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, UAHC president, said the Israeli action, if it ends nuclear proliferation, would benefit not only Israel but all mankind. Yehuda Hellman, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called on American Jews to unite behind Israel to oppose the suspension of the F-16 deliveries.
The UAHC Trustees adopted a resolution declaring that the Israel action was “fully justified” and urged Reagan to lift the suspension of the deliveries and to veto any condemnation of Israel in the United Nations Security Council.