Washington (Jun. 18)
Whether the Reagan Administration or Congress will make a “determination” that Israel violated or did not violate its arms agreement with the United States in its raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor was still unclear today as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began four days of hearings.
But Sen. John Glenn (D. Ohio) told the Committee and State Department officials that the administration had “boxed” itself in by making the decision to withhold delivery to Israel of four F-16 jet warplanes. He said the Administration will have to join Congress in making a decision on whether Israel violated the agreement with the U.S. by using American-made planes for the raid on Iraq. Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s letter to Congress only said that a “substantial violation … may have occurred.”
“The embargo of the F-16s has to be either continued in which case it would be a determination that a violation has occurred or if you pull the embargo off there has to be justification for pulling it off,” Glenn said.
Walter Stoessel, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, who, with both Haig and Deputy Secretary of State William Clark out of the country, is the senior State Department official in Washinton, had no reply. But earlier Stoessel repeated the same statement to the Senate Committee he made yesterday to a joint meeting of two sub-committees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In this statement he stressed that neither the Administration’s condemnation of the Israeli raid nor its suspension of the delivery of the four planes “implied that we had reached any determination” on whether Israel violated the agreement.
“JUST PASSING THE BUCK”
Glenn noted that the Reagan Administration, like previous Administrations, was leaving it to Congress to make the determination of an Israeli violation. He said this was done on Israeli actions in Lebanon in 1978 and 1979 and on Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. Glenn wanted to know whether the Administration was working “in partnership” with Congress on making the determination on the Iraqi raid or “just passing the buck and letting us be the heavies.”
Stoessel replied that the Administration which is holding its own review has not made a decision yet on whether there will be a determination of an Israeli violation. He said “I don’t think there is any intention to pass the buck. I think all of us agree we are faced with a very difficult, complex situation.”
Meanwhile, two members of the committee usually friendly toward Israel criticized Premier Menachem Begin personally for scheduling the raid on Iraq. Sen. Charles Mathias (R. Md.) questioned “whether we serve the best interest of either Israel or the United States by standing idly by while the Prime Minister of Israel pursues courses of action foreordained to move the Israel people further and further from rapprochement with its Arab neighbors.”
Sen. Paul Tsongas (D. Mass.) said that, “I draw a distinction between the State of Israel and Prime Minister Menachem Begin. That has never been the case before.” Tsongas said he was specifically angry that Begin met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat three days before the bombing. He said the Israeli Premier should have called off the meeting with Sadat because the “embarrassment” to the Egyptian President was “serious” and will “hurt Israel in the long run.” But Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.) rejected charges that Begin ordered the raid to help him in his political campaign. He said that Begin was already ahead in the race and if the raid had failed it “probably would have spelled the end of Mr. Begin’s career.”