Jerusalem (Aug. 18)
Political circles reacted coolly today to the announcement yesterday by Secretary of State Alexander Haig that “the President has lifted the suspension of military aircraft deliveries to Israel.” There was no direct reference to the decision, but political sources referred reporters to the statement Premier Menachem Begin made last Sunday.
He said then that the embargo “was absolutely unjust and unjustifiable. A wrong was done to Israel, those planes having been denied to Israel for quite a long period.” Begin added, however, that President Reagan “will decide to right that wrong, and righting a wrong is doing justice.” He also stated that the planes which the U.S. withheld “are not American planes. They are Israeli planes made in America.”
Consequently, the sources pointed out, Jerusalem was not about to thank the United States for lifting the embargo. Furthermore, the sources stressed that Israel had not undertaken any new commitments following the lifting of the embargo. Israel, they said, had never broken any arms agreement with the U.S. to use the planes for defensive purposes only — according to Israel’s definition of defensive. This included the bombings of the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the terrorist installations in Beirut.
SEEN AS STEP ON EVE OF SUMMIT
The lifting of the embargo was interpreted here as an obvious step on the eve of Begin’s meeting with Reagan next month. This development has cleared the air for a thorough discussion of the relationship between the two countries, it was explained here. According to reports in Jerusalem, Begin intends to be on the offensive when he meets with Reagan, stressing Israel’s contribution to the Western nations which has made it an important ally in the Middle East.
This view was reflected in the reaction today by Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He welcomed the lifting of the embargo and expressed hope that the U.S. would refrain in the future from using the embargo because this would be counter-productive to American interests. Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, a leader of the Labor Alignment, said Israel should utilize the new situation to explain to the American public the seriousness of withholding the shipment of military equipment that had been contracted for, with signed agreements, as was the case with the embargoed planes. He cautioned, however, that the U.S. might resort again to using the embargo tactic in the future, depending on Israel’s policy.