New York (Jul. 21)
Secretary of State Alexander Haig said last night that the decision to continue a delay of shipment of F-16 jet fighters to Israel was based on the “objective realities” of the situation in Lebanon but noted that this will have no affect on Israeli-American relations.
“Israel is a long-standing friend and ally, our relations will continue on that long-standing and historic friendship,” Haig said on ABC-TV’s “Night-line” program in a live interview from Ottawa where he is attending the seven-nation economic summit. He said the continued delay on the shipment of F-16s was based on a “unanimous decision in the Executive branch” that it “would be highly inappropriate” for the Reagan Administration to send the planes to Israel in light of the “tense situation” in the Mideast.
Haig was particularly evasive when asked what the U.S. was doing to halt Palestinian terrorist attacks on settlements in northern Israel or when it was suggested that it seemed “unfair to punish” just Israel in this situation.
He reiterated that it was “inappropriate to send such lethal weapons” to the Mideast while this “tense situation” prevailed. Haig added, however, that there was no decision to stop sending other weaponry to Israel, although he failed to mention just what those other items were.
NOTED CONDITIONS FOR RESUMING DELIVERIES
Haig noted that several developments would be necessary before deliveries of F-16s could be continued: a “quieting down of situation” in Lebanon, success of special envoy Philip Habib’s mission to attain a cease-fire or a return to the status quo ante.
Haig announced earlier in the afternoon yesterday that President Reagan, who is in Ottawa for the economic summit, had indefinitely suspended the delivery of F-16 jet fighters to Israel. The President was expected to decide last Friday whether to lift the suspension of F-16s that was imposed after Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor June 7 as well as give the go ahead on six more F-16s scheduled to leave New Hampshire for Israel today.