New York (Nov. 19)
members of the Israeli Knesset delegation to the United States, Likud MK Moshe Arens, head of the delegation, and Labor MK Chaim Herzog, said today their mission was “in many ways a success” due to the bi-partisan nature of the six-member delegation and the recent turn of events in the Mideast, such as the assassination of President Anwar Sadat and the Senate approval of the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia — events which focused attention on the delegation.
Arens and Herzog, speaking at a press conference at the Israeli Consulate here, said that in view of the “unprecedented interest” by the American media in the delegation — which came to the U.S. to explain Israel’s opposition to the eight-point plan of Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia — they are going to recommend, upon their return to Israel, that more MKs be sent to the U.S. for information purposes.
Arens said that the main message of the delegation to American officials in Washington and the media was that the “Mideast peace process is in danger of being derailed,” and that the Saudi plan was primarily designed for the “dismemberment” of the State of Israel.
“We felt a considerable amount of interest and concern over our concerns,” Herzog said. He added that he found a special concern in the American Jewish community regarding the recent developments affecting the Mideast, particularly among “grass-root Jews.” He also said that the Jewish community showed “a great sense of identity” with Israel.
U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS ASSESSED
Asked to assess the present state of relations between Israel and the United States, Arens said that the two countries “have a very significant difference of opinions” on certain issues, such as the AWACS or the Fahd plan, but at the same time there is a “high degree of affinity” between the two countries which is indicated by the upcoming discussions on American-Israeli strategic cooperation.
Herzog said that the Israeli delegation found in official circles in Washington “a tendency to accommodate us — at least with words.” He said there was “no indication of hostility” toward Israel or the Jewish people in Washington.
Herzog and Arens appeared last night before a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, where they reiterated Israel’s total objection to the Saudi plan. They said that Israel is willing to negotiate with Saudi Arabia, and any other Arab country, but without preconditions.
Both speakers warned of the massive arms purchases by Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, which, according to Herzog, has contracted for military projects totaling about $38 billion since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Arens and Herzog also said that in their Washington talks they stressed the extremism of the Saudis, in opposition to a somewhat widespread view in the Administration and Senate that the Saudis are a moderate force in the region. In that connection, Herzog said the PLO receives financial support from Saudi Arabia “to the tune of one million dollars a day.”
At a breakfast meeting today, Arens and Herzog told members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, that the current Mideast peace process was endangered by the Saudi plan. The meeting with 40 major union leaders, prior to their session of the AFL-CIO centennial convention here, was held in cooperation with the labor division of the Israel Bond Organization.