Washington (Jul. 20)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Charles Percy (R. III.) called on President Reagan not to release any F-16s for Israel until the United States has “assurances” that there will be no more Israeli raids on civilian targets such as the one on Beirut last Friday.
Percy said that the escalation of violence in Lebanon is “counterproductive” for both Israel and the Palestinians. He noted that Israel requires “peaceful borders for its security” and the Palestinians must realize by now that continued shelling of Israel by them brings massive retaliation upon them.
He said that the increase in violence across the Israeli-Lebanese border was a “major setback” to the peaceful solution for the Middle East. He called on all sides not to do anything to “undercut” special envoy Philip Habib’s efforts to bring a cease-fire to Lebanon.
Percy made his remarks as the committee began hearings on the Reagan Administration’s request for congressional authorization for American participation in the multi-national force and observers (MFO) that will police the Sinai following Israel’s final withdrawal in April 1982.
Also critical of Israel was Sen. Jesse Helms (R. N.C.). Two other committee members, Sens. Richard Lugar (R. Ind.) and Nancy Kassebaum (R. Kan.) backed Percy in calling for a suspension of arms shipments to Israel. The four Republicans were the only committee members present at the time.
On the MFO, Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, said that according to an agreement signed by Israel, Egypt and the U.S. in London last Friday, the U.S. would supply 1,000 of the expected 2500 members of the MFO.
Veliotes said that Congress was being asked to appropriate $125 million for the 1982 fiscal year which begins Oct. I to cover construction as well as the U.S. members of the MFO. He said beginning in the 1983 fiscal year, Egypt, Israel and the U.S. will each appropriate $35 million to pay for the MFO.
Veliotes noted that Leamon Hunt, a retired Foreign Service officer, has been named interim Director-General of the MFO and will begin work to see that the force is in place by late March 1982. Veliotes noted that the MFO agreement was the “first step toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East” to meet the just requirements of the Palestinian people and security needs of Israel.