Jerusalem (Nov. 4)
The Reagan Administration has pledged to stand by the Camp David accords as the only way to achieve a political settlement in the Middle East. A message to that effect and a commitment to honor all points agreed upon during Premier Menachem Begin’s visit to Washington in September was received today from Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
The message, delivered to Begin by the U. S. Charge d’Affaires, William Brown, further eased the strains that developed in U. S.-Israeli relations during the past week over the Senate’s approval of the sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and other advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia and remarks by President Reagan and Haig indicating that the U. S. considered certain parts of Saudi Arabia’s eight-point peace plan encouraging.
Begin was reportedly gratified by the American clarification. Political circles here said today that there is now a better understanding of Israel’s position by the U. S. That position, conveyed in Washington in recent days, was that Israel might reconsider certain steps in her participation in further Mideast peace moves if the U. S. deviated from the Camp David agreements and adopted plans such as the Saudi eight points which Israel vehemently rejected.
U. S., ISRAEL BACK ON COURSE
Adding to the feeling here that the U. S. and Israel are once more on a common course was Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger’s invitation to Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to visit Washington at the end of this month to discuss strategic cooperation between Israel and the U. S. Begin announced in the Knesset yesterday that Weinberger’s invitation was received Sunday.
It was seen as part of the Reagan Administration’s efforts to ease Israel’s anxiety over the AWACS deal and the Saudi peace plan. U. S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis met with Sharon Sunday. Sources on both sides indicated that their talks were considerably more cordial than the tone of Sharon’s public criticisms of the U. S. in recent days.
A more moderate tone toward Washington was also evident in Begin’s Knesset speech yesterday, winding up two days of debate on the AWACS sale and the peace plan of Saudi Crown Prince Fahd. He spoke of “cooperation, friendship and even an unwritten alliance (with the U. S.) which is sometimes more efficacious than a signed pact.”
The Knesset, as expected, adopted a resolution “utterly rejecting” the Saudi peace plan and the European Economic Community (EEC) peace initiatives, and reaffirmed that Jerusalem is the indivisible capital of Israel.
Shimon Peres and other leaders of the opposition Labor Party sought specific pledges from the government to conclude the autonomy talks with Egypt and the U. S. by next April, when Israel must complete its withdrawal from Sinai, and to invite the Saudis to enter peace talks with Israel “without pre-conditions.”
ISRAEL’S FLIGHTS OVER LEBANON CONTINUE
Although Labor and Likud, in behind the scenes negotiations, failed to reach agreement on a joint Knesset resolution, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres agreed that his faction would abstain rather than vote against the Knesset resolution of confidence in the government’s policies. Mapam members of the Labor Alignment and Labor MK Yossi Sarid bucked party discipline and voted against the government, as did Shulamit Aloni of the Civil Rights Movement.
In the course of the debate, Begin disclosed that Israel conducted “almost daily” overflights of Lebanon for photo reconnaissance purposes without interference from the Syrian SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles based
there. He said that if the missiles were fired, Israel would not hesitate to bomb them. But he also indicated that Israel would withhold action against the missiles pending renewed efforts by U. S. special Ambassador Philip Habib to have them removed. Habib is due to return to the region later this month.