Washington (Aug. 18)
Israeli Ambassador Ephraim Evron denied today that a deal had been made between Israel and the United States which led to the lifting of the U.S. embargo on warplanes to Israel. Asked on NBC-TV’s “Today” program whether the decision announced yesterday by Secretary of State Alexander Haig was related to Israel’s agreement to the cease-fire last month, Evron replied; “Certainly not. One thing has got nothing to do with the other.” He also asserted that “no deal whatsoever” had been made.
The envoy reiterated the view expressed by Premier Menachem Begin of Israel last Sunday that the suspension of the deliveries of the planes “was unjust and damaging in many ways.” He added that “we are glad it has been lifted.
A statement issued yesterday by the Israel Embassy, said that Evron “welcomed” Haig’s announcement. It added: “The Ambassador said that the suspension was unhelpful and unjust but expressed his conviction that
with its abolition, the traditional close bonds of friendship between Israel and the U.S. will deepen and get even stronger.” Haig, in talking to reporters after announcing the suspension, also said he hoped the embargo had not damaged U.S. relations with Israel. “We don’t see any change in our long-standing relationship,” he said. “Clearly they were not happy with the suspension.”
NO CONCLUSION ON POSSIBLE ARMS VIOLATION
Haig, in making the announcement yesterday, said the Administration completed its “intensive” review of Israel’s use of American-supplied F-16 war planes in its attacks on Iraq’s nuclear reactor and the headquarters of terrorist organizations in Beirut but had not reached a conclusion on whether the raids violated the U.S.-Israeli agreement to use the planes only for defensive purposes. Israel claimed that both raids were entirely defensive.
“The Administration in its review has also taken account of events and trends in the Middle East, particularly events in Lebanon leading to a cease-fire there,” Haig said. “The cease-fire is a very positive new element in the region, one which the Administration hopes will continue and which perhaps will make possible other steps toward peace in that troubled region.
“Following our discussion with the government of Israel, consultations with the Congress and completion of the Administration’s review, the President has lifted the suspension of military aircraft deliveries to Israel.”
U.S. DID NOT SEEK ISRAELI ASSURANCE
The suspension, which followed Israel’s bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor last June and terrorist installation in Beirut last month, involved a total of 14 F-16s and 2 F-15s. Israel maintained that its two actions were defensive in character and did not therefore violate any arms agreement with the U.S. not to use American-supplied aircraft for offensive purposes.
Haig said the U.S. had neither sought nor received any assurance from Israel that she would abide by the terms of the arms agreement in the future. Nor, he added, was there any promise by Israel to consult the U.S. before taking military actions in the future.
“The understanding of the arrangements under which we provide military assistance to Israel are clearly recognized on both sides,” Haig said. Begin, talking to reporters in Jerusalem after the Cabinet meeting last Sunday, also said that the U.S. had never asked Israel to limit the use of the aircraft it supplies to “non-attack purposes. We have never had such a demand. It would be completely out of this world.”
JEWISH LEADERS HAIL REAGAN’S DECISIONS
Meanwhile, Jewish leaders hailed the President’s decision to end the two-month old embargo and resume delivery of the planes.
Nathan Perlmutter, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said that the release of the planes was “an implicit recognition that a pre-emptive strike is indeed defensive,” adding the decision was “a welcome development without which the Palestine Liberation Organization could continue its raids secure in the knowledge that Israel’s responses would be frustrated by America’s withholding the planes.”
Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the Jewish National Fund, called the announcement the “righting of a wrong and the proper reversal of an ill-advised decision.” He said the release of the planes “can only bode well for the strengthening of relations between the United States and its strategic, democratic ally in the Mideast, Israel.”
Rabbi Sol Roth, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said that, by the decision, the United States “again manifests its commitment to the Jewish State, assures that Israel will remain strong and continue to have the wherewithal to defend itself against military threats to its existence,” and “ensures the kind of stability in the region that serves the interests of Israel, the United States and the entire world.”