Washington (Nov. 15)
Although the concerns about United States policy in the Middle East that brought a six-member bipartisan Knesset delegation to Washington have not lessened, the head of the group said he believed the mission here had been worthwhile.
Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Friday that the Israeli group had not expected an immediate change in Reagan Administration policy on the Middle East. But Arens said he believed the Israeli MKs were listened to attentively in their two days of talks with Administration officials and members of Congress.
Arens, a Likud leader, and Labor MK Chaim Herzog told a breakfast meeting of reporters Friday that this was the first time the Knesset had sent a bipartisan group to Washington and this demonstrated the concern by both the government and the opposition over recent positions taken by the Reagan Administration, including words of praise for the eight-point Saudi Arabian plan.
FEARS DERAILMENT OF PEACE PROCESS
Arens reiterated the fear that the Mideast peace process “might be derailed” because of the influx of sophisticated arms to the Arab countries and because pressure might be brought against Israel by “its friends” to make concessions beyond those already made in the Camp David peace process.
He stressed that the eight-point plan proposed by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia was aimed at Israel’s destruction. He said most of the points represent demands that the Saudis sought to impose on Israel. While Arens did not outline what these demands were, the Fahd plan called for Israel’s complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Arens said that the point in the plan which affirms “the right of all countries of the region to live in peace” could be interpreted, as the United States has, as demonstrating a willingness by Saudi Arabia to accept Israel’s existence. But he called this just a “cosmetic” change. He stressed, however, that Israel is willing at any time to enter into “direct negotiations” with Saudi Arabia.
(According to a report in The New York Times today, Gaafar Allagany, the acting Saudi delegate at the United Nations, said the plan “does recognize Israel. It says ‘all states’. We are not afraid to say that it does recognize Israel.” Nevertheless, Israel’s Cabinet spokesman Arye Naor said today in Jerusalem that Israel has in no way altered its total opposition to the plan.)
Herzog, who is a former Israeli envoy to the United Nations, said the Fahd plan rejects UN Security Council Resolution 242 which the Reagan Administration continues to stress as the basis for U.S. peace efforts in the Middle East. He noted that since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Saudi Arabia has contracted for military projects totaling some $38 billion, which he said is enough to arm all the countries of Africa and six countries of NATO, including France and West Germany.
ISRAEL’S LOSS OF MILITARY ‘EDGE’
Herzog noted that Saudi Arabia kept the bulk of its armored force only 150 miles from Eilat. He said the reason is that the Saudi regime fears to have its tank forces near Saudi Arabia’s populated centers for internal security reasons. Herzog said that highly sophisticated weaponry should not be sent to a country which has “this justified fear.”
On other issues, Herzog said that while the Saudis may have been helpful in achieving the cease-fire across the Lebanon-Israel border, they have been using the cease-fire to pour arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon.
Arens said that the threat from the PLO in South Lebanon is the reason Israel wants the Syrian missiles removed from central Lebanon. He said the missiles have hampered Israel’s surveillance of PLO activities and Israel’s ability to know whether the terrorists are planning attacks on Israeli settlements. He said if the PLO resumes its shelling of Israel’s northern settlements, Israel will respond.
Arens stressed that Israel planned to go ahead with its final withdrawal from the Sinai in April unless there is a major violation of the peace treaty by Egypt.
The two MKs denied that the six-member bipartisan delegation was a precursor of a government of national unity in Israel. However, it was noted here that former Labor Premier Yitzhak Rabin has called for such a government, and that Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet with Premier Menachem Begin this week. Arens stressed that such a government would not change Israel’s policy but would be a continuation of it with Labor support.