Jerusalem (Nov. 9)
Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon issued separate warnings today aimed against what they perceive to be mounting pressure from the West for Israeli concessions, a tilt toward Saudi Arabia by the European Economic Community (EEC) countries and “confused” American policy toward the Saudi peace plan and the autonomy talks with Egypt.
Begin who spoke here at the opening of “Isratech 1981,” an industrial fair, insisted that Israel has already reached the absolute limit of its political concessions and there would be no more. He said that Israel has already given up vital strategic positions in Sinai. On the eastern front, Begin declared, autonomy was the maximum concession Israel was willing to make. He claimed that Israel was already under pressure to negotiate on the basis of the eight-point plan ennunciated by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia and the 1980 Venice declaration by the EEC foreign ministers. Israel will not surrender to these pressures, Begin said.
LAST CHANCE FOR HABIB
Sharon addressing a press conference for foreign correspondents in Tel Aviv, warned that Israel would give U.S. special envoy Philip Habib just one more chance to halt terrorist breaches of the cease-fire in Lebanon and to get Syria to remove the SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles it has deployed in that country by diplomatic means. He said unless this was done, Israel would be forced to take “other action.”
He did not spell out what that might be. Nor would he define the “red line” in Lebanon beyond which, he said, Syrian troops or terrorists would not be allowed to move. Habib, who is due in the region later this month, was originally dispatched to the Middle East last May by President Reagan after Israel threatened to destroy the Syrian missiles by force. He stayed on to engineer a cease-fire along the Lebanese border where fighting between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization threatened to escalate into full scale warfare.
Sharon charged today that there have been over 21 breaches of the cease-fire by Palestinian terrorists in south Lebanon since it went into effect last July 24. He said other terrorist attacks or attempted attacks on Israel originated on Jordanian territory or were carried out against Jewish or Israeli institutions abroad, mainly in Western Europe.
The Defense Minister also repeated his charge that U.S. military equipment supplied to Saudi Arabia was being transferred to Iraq “in contravention of a clear U.S. law barring such transfers.” Sharon said he was confident U.S. intelligence was aware of this breach but nevertheless, Israel had to draw U.S. attention to it.
He said he had no objection to American supplies of arms to Saudi Arabia to protect what he called a “completely corrupt” regime that faced internal attacks. But he insisted that the AWACS reconnaissance aircraft, the enhancement equipment for Saudi F-15 jet fighters and other advanced military hardware the U.S. plans to sell Saudi Arabia “will certainly not be used against the Soviet Union but only against Israel.”
TOUGHER POLICY ON WEST BANK, GAZA
Sharon complained about “confused announcements” coming from Washington about the Fahd peace plan and the peace talks with Egypt. “The voice of Europe is not encouraging to us and it is not clear what is the real American policy,” he said. He said that henceforth, Israel would have to consider Saudi Arabia as one of the “confrontation states” against Israel and against Middle East peace.
With respect to his upcoming visit to Washington next month to discuss “strategic cooperation” with U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Sharon said he and his party would discuss details of strategic cooperation only after a memorandum of understanding was signed covering a broad field and spelling out mutual responsibilities.
Replying to questions, Sharon made it plain that his policy toward the West Bank and Gaza Strip was tougher, not softer as had been reported abroad. “All foreign correspondents and inhabitants of Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip should understand that the new policy does not mean a more lenient approach, but the opposite. We shall treat the peaceful population more gently but the terrorists will be treated more harshly,” he warned. He said he included the “stone-throwing students of Bir Zeit University” in the category of “terrorists.”