Jerusalem (Aug. 16)
Premier Menachem Begin said today that the United States had never asked Israel to limit the use of the aircraft it supplies to “non-attack purposes.” He told reporters after the Cabinet session that “We have never had such a demand. It would be completely out of this world.” The Premier also rejected the use of the term “American planes.” He said “They are not American planes. They are Israeli planes made in America.”
The issue of whether Israel had violated U.S. law in using American-made planes when it bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor last June and again when it bombed terrorist installations in Beirut last month was raised in Washington by the Administration as a basis for suspending deliveries of F-16 warplanes to Israel.
Although no violation of U.S. law had been found, the Administration, nevertheless, decided to continue its embargo of the warplanes. Immediately after the bombing of the terrorist installations in Beirut, the Reagan Administration claimed that sending war planes to Israel would only exacerbate the volatile situation in the area. After the cease-fire along the Israel-Lebanon border was proclaimed July 24, the Administration said it would wait and see whether the cease-fire would hold.
EXPECTS AIRCRAFT IN ISRAEL NEXT WEEK
Begin, in reviewing U.S.-Israel relations in preparation for his visit to Washington early next month for meetings with President Reagan and other top Administration officials, said he expected Reagan to lift the embargo on the F-15s and F-16s within the next few days. He told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that the planes are “of very great help to Israel’s security, and I want to tell you that we also help America’s national security. And the Americans know that very well.”
Begin said he expected the planes would be allowed to leave the U.S. within a day or so and arrive in Israel within a week. “The embargo which lasted several weeks was absolutely unjust and unjustifiable,” he said. “A wrong was done to Israel, those planes having been denied to Israel for quite a long period. But now the President will decide to right that wrong, and righting a wrong is doing justice.”
Begin noted that “somebody said it was a precedent. I would like to express the hope that is no precedent at all and that it will never be repeated.”
TRY TO REMOVE MISUNDERSTANDINGS
Begin reportedly told the Cabinet that his talks in Washington would be largely devoted to trying to remove misunderstandings which may have arisen between Israel and the U.S. He told reporters he would shortly be sending a note to Secretary of State Alexander Haig asking what has happened to special envoy Philip Habib’s mission, which was initially aimed at getting the Syrian missiles out of Lebanon.
Begin noted that the missiles are still there and that the terrorists are building up their forces in Lebanon, He said that Israel could not sit back and do nothing if there was a threat of another war of attrition. He was referring to the terrorist bombings of northern Israeli villages and kibbutzim before the cease-fire went into effect.
Asked by reporters for his reaction to Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s conciliatory policy toward Arabs living in the administered areas (see Friday, Aug. 14 Bulletin), Begin said it was not a new policy but the government’s already declared policy, albeit with a change of emphasis under Sharon. The Defense Minister’s aides said he would be holding meetings with West Bank leaders “quietly, away from the spotlight” in an effort to get to know them.
DISMISSES SAUDI PLAN
Discussing the proposals raised Aug. 14 by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Begin said these did not constitute a Saudi peace initiative. The Premier said he had carefully studied Fahd’s statement which called for, among other things, guaranteeing the right of all states in the Middle East to “live in peace.” It did not mention Israel by name.
Begin, noting that, said that other Arab spokesmen who had frequently used similar terminology in the past always explained that they did not include Israel in their definition because they did not regard Israel as a state.
The Premier confirmed that he will go to Alexandria Aug. 25 for two days of talks with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Interior Minister Yosef Burg who is in charge of the autonomy talks on behalf of Israel, and Sharon who cancelled his own planned visit to Egypt which was to have been this week. They will also accompany Begin on his visit to the U.S.
Referring to his forthcoming meeting with Sadat, Begin said: “It is obvious that the main issues will be renewal of the autonomy talks and the peace process.” Begin is due to leave Israel for the U.S. Sept. 6, meeting Reagan on Sept. 8 and 9. During his nine-day stay in the U.S., Begin will call on former President Jimmy Carter in Plains, Georgia.