New York (Sep. 13)
Premier Menachem Begin told American Jewish leaders here last night that “a new era” has begun in relationships between Israel and the United States. He claimed that the agreement for strategic cooperation reached during his talks with President Reagan in Washington last week was “a turning point” in ties between the two countries.
Begin, addressing some 150 Jewish leaders, members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who assembled to meet him at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, said “We got the finest hearing possible from President Reagan” on the issue of the sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft to Saudi Arabia and Israel’s contention that the sale poses a danger to its security.
The Premier spoke for about an hour at the meeting which was barred to the press. The highlights of his remarks were relayed to reporters afterwards by spokesmen for the Israel Consulate in New York and the Presidents Conference.
CITES THREE PHASES IN U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS
Begin said that there have been three phases in relations between America and Israel: The first phase was one of “great friendship,” dating from the recognition of the Jewish State by President Truman in 1948; the second phase came when President Carter raised the possibility of a formal defense treaty between Israel and the U.S. This idea did not materialize, Begin observed.
The third phase, which he called “a turning point,” is the phase of strategic cooperation agreed upon during Begin’s latest visit to Washington. The Israeli Premier explained that in the last few years Israel and the U.S. conducted “a strategic dialogue” which has now turned into strategic cooperation. Begin said that Israel’s foreign policy from now on will be based on peace and security for Israel and strategic cooperation with the U.S. to stop Soviet expansionism in the Middle East.
Begin said he explained to Reagan the dangers that the sophisticated AWACS aircraft posed to Israel and also emphasized the dangers to Israel from the equipment to enhance the capabilities of the F-15 fighter bombers sold to Saudi Arabia, including extra fuel tanks. He said with this equipment, the Saudis could reach Tel Aviv and return to their bases. Begin claimed that the package sale added “a terrific” force to any future Arab attack on Israel.
DEFENDS ATTACKS ON REACTOR, PLO HEADQUARTERS
The Premier also defended before the Jewish leaders the much criticized Israeli air attacks on Iraq’s nuclear reactor near Baghdad and on Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Beirut. He described them as acts of “supreme self-defense,” claiming that Israel had information that the Iraqis would soon be capable of assembling a Hiroshima-type atomic bomb and that the PLO headquarters in Beirut master-minded and gave orders for attacks on Israeli settlements near the Lebanese border.
Begin’s remarks were followed by a brief question-and-answer period the contents of which were not disclosed to the press. The meeting was opened by Howard Squadron, chairman of the Presidents Conference. Later today, Begin will meet with the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel and will meet this evening with the Synagogue Council of America to receive its Covenant of Peace Award.
DENIES BEGIN URGES AWACS ISSUE BE PLAYED DOWN
(In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor denied published reports today that Begin had asked the members of the Presidents Conference to moderate their opposition to the AWACS deal. He said that Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben-Meir telephoned Begin’s party in New York during today’s Cabinet session and had received a flat denial from an aid who attended Begin’s meeting with the American Jewish leaders.
(According to Naor, Begin told his audience that Israel had expressed its position against the AWACS sale to both the Administration and Congress but would avoid involving itself in the decision-making process by those two branches of the U.S. government. “No reasonable man could have deduced from the Premier’s briefing that he was signaling American Jews to moderate their position on the AWACS,” Naor said.)