Washington (Sep. 10)
The United States and Israel have agreed to work more closely toward “strategic cooperation” against the threat of Soviet aggression in the Middle East as a result of Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s two days of talks with President Reagan, but no formal alliance was worked out.
This emerged from statements by Reagan and Begin as the Premier left the White House today and in remarks by Begin at a crowded press conference at a Washington hotel later. Begin said the details of the cooperation will be worked out between Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger at a meeting tomorrow.
Both leaders said they were pleased by their White House talks which Reagan called “friendly and useful and productive” and Begin termed “very fruitful.” Reagan said a “friendship and complete candor developed between us,” while Begin said the talks were “candid in detail.” The President added that the talks “created new bonds of understanding between the U.S. and Israel and renewed and strengthened our very special relationship.”
BEGIN DRAWS A ‘CLEAR DISTINCTION’
Reagan declared that Israel and the U.S. have developed a “partnership” to oppose all forces that threaten the Middle East. Begin was more specific in drawing a “clear distinction” between a mutual defense agreement and the idea of strategic cooperation.
“The defense of Israel is our problem,” he said. “We will never ask any nation to send soldiers to defend us.” He repeated that at his press conference, saying Israel would never ask “American soldiers to shed blood” for the Jewish State.
But Begin said there is a “clear community of interest” between the U.S. and Israel against the danger posed to the Middle East and elsewhere by the Soviet Union. He said the two countries would make a “common effort” through strategic cooperation “for the sake of mutual security” and for the entire free world.
The Premier denied that the strategic cooperation concept was “compensation” for Israel to placate it over the Administration’s decision to sell AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and enhancement equipment for F-15 fighter-bombers to Saudi Arabia. He said that what he called the “double deal” — the selling of AWACS and the F-15 embellishments that would give them offensive capability — is “a danger to Israel’s security.”
NO SIGNAL FROM BEGIN ON AWACS
Begin said Reagan allowed him and other members of his party to set out in full detail their concerns over the AWACS sale. He said the President and his aides then gave their reasons for going ahead with the sale. But Begin refused to call on Congress to veto the proposed deal. Congress received the Administration’s informal notification of the sale yesterday and has 50 days to veto it by vote of both houses.
Sen. Bob Packwood (R. Ore.), who is heading the Senate fight against the AWACS sale, has said that a “signal” from Begin might be needed to get Senators “sitting on the fence” to join the opposition. But Begin said he would give no such “so-called signal” to the elected legislative branch of another country. He said, however, that he would continue to repeat his view that the proposed sale endangers Israel.
ISSUE OF THE AUTONOMY TALKS
In his departing words to Begin, Reagan said the U.S. will help Egypt and Israel build upon their
peace treaty and “stand ready to develop the peace process.” Begin said at his press conference that the Administration did not say who the U.S. will send when the autonomy negotiations resume in Cairo September 23-24. But he shot down a suggestion that the meeting might be held in New York. He said that he and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt had agreed to resume the talks after a 14-month suspension and believe they should be held in the region.
Begin said he thought the talks should be held at least twice a week and that unlike some Egyptian officials, he didn’t think they should begin from scratch because agreement already has been achieved on many points. Begin said he hoped an agreement on full autonomy could be reached by the end of this year.
BEGIN DENIES HE IS INFLEXIBLE
Asked about suggestions by some in the U.S. that no progress could be achieved as long as he heads Israel’s government, Begin quipped, “What can I do if I was reelected?” He said he was elected democratically and that he had never made a remark such as that attributed to Gen. Sherman that he would not run and if elected would not serve. “I apologize to you (the press) that I was reelected,” Begin said.
He also denied that he was inflexible. He noted that in the peace agreement with Egypt, Israel gave up much, particularly the Sinai oil wells which means that it now pays Egypt $500 million a year for oil, and also made the “still painful decision” to abandon settlements in Sinai.
ISRAEL WILL NEVER TALK TO THE PLO
Begin declared that Israel will never negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization which, as in the past, he labeled a “neo-Nazi organization.” He noted that El Fatah, the PLO’s military arm, at a recent conference in Damascus, passed a resolution calling for the “complete liberation of Palestine and liquidation of the Zionist entity economically, politically, militarily, culturally and psychologically.”
Begin said that Israel takes such statements “seriously” and that no nation would negotiate with an organization that wants to destroy it. He added that at the same conference, the PLO passed a resolution calling for “strengthening the strategic alliance with the Socialist countries headed by the Soviet Union.” He claimed that this proves the PLO is a servant of Moscow
On another matter, Begin defended Sadat for taking what he called “harsh” actions against his opponents in Egypt. Saying he had been prepared for the question, Begin observed that while actions such as those taken by Sadat were “unthinkable” in the U.S. or Israel, the Egyptian President acted to prevent “Khomeinism” from “taking over” in Egypt and to protect the peace process. Begin said fanatical Moslem fundamentalists were a danger to Egypt and other Arab countries.
The Israeli Premier was scheduled to lunch with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon and to meet later with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He will also meet with individual Senators at Blair House. Tonight he will be feted by Israeli Ambassador and Mrs. Ephraim Evron at a gala dinner at the National Portrait Gallery. He will leave for New York tomorrow after breakfasting with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and meeting with the Rev. Jerry Falwell and other leaders of the Moral Majority and with AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland.