New York (Oct. 1)
President Reagan today warned Israel to stay out of internal U.S. foreign policy decisions and reiterated his continued support of the proposed sale of AWACS early warning radar planes to Saudi Arabia.
In an opening statement read to reporters at his first press conference in three months, Reagan indirectly referred to Israel’s vehement and outspoken opposition to the proposed arms package. “It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy decisions,” the President said.
Reagan said the proposed sale, which faces stiff opposition from both Houses of Congress, will “significantly enhance our national interests in the Middle East.” He noted that the sale will improve U.S.-Saudi ability to defend the oil fields “on which our security depends …”
The President said that both a secure Israel and a stable Middle East are in our national interests. “The sale poses no threat to Israel, now or in the future,” he declared.
Asked about his opening statement and whether Israel should keep its hands off national security interests, the President responded, “I don’t mean that in any deprecating way.” It is important that other countries do not get the impression “that we are being unduly influenced” by other powers, Reagan said.
Reagan appeared confident that the proposed arms package will meet the requirements of skeptical Senators and avoid possible rejection by the Senate. He rejected the suggestion that the weaponry would be compromised should the Saudi regime go the way of the late Shah of Iran. “We will not permit a Saudi Arabia to be an Iran,” Reagan said. The President did not elaborate on just how the U.S. would avoid such an occurrence. The press conference was nationally televised from the White House.