Likud, Labor Leaders Clash over U.s.-israel Agreement

The memorandum on strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel was praised today by leaders of the Likud but sharply denounced by leaders of the Labor Alignment.

The memorandum, which was signed yesterday by Israel’s Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in Washington, was praised by Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich as “another stage in the friendly relations between the two countries. I hope this is only the beginning.” A statement issued by the office of Premier Menachem Begin said the memorandum was “an important achievement, as it would strengthen Israel’s ties with the United States and improve her international status.”

Labor Alignment leaders denounced the memorandum for stating that the strategic cooperation “is designed against the threat to peace and security of the region caused by the Soviet Union or Soviet-controlled forces from outside the region introduced into the region.”

AN UNPRECEDENTED AGREEMENT

Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who is now a Knesset member, said that no previous international document signed by the U.S. states specifically that it is directed against the Soviet Union. For example, the NATO treaty is defined as directed against possible attack from all directions, Eban noted. A previous memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel in 1975 stated that the U.S. would assist Israel against threats by any “world power,” Eban said.

He added that only the Eisenhower Doctrine of the 1950s made a more specific reference to a possible enemy by stating that the U.S. would protect Israel against “aggression by any country ruled by Communism.” The fact is, he pointed out, that Israel is the first country in the history of modern diplomacy to tie itself in a formal agreement with the U.S. specifically directed against the Soviet Union.

Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin was critical of the memorandum because “one understands from that document that Israel has given her a priori agreement that the Israel Defense Force will be operated in the Middle East under circumstances so far unknown, for purposes that are not directly for the defense of Israel. In return we did not get anything new. Furthermore, the U.S. cannot under its Constitution act militarily unless this action is for the purpose of defending America or American citizens.”

Rabin’s criticism was understood to refer to the clause in the memorandum dealing with military cooperation between the two countries, joint military exercises and acting “cooperatively and in a timely manner to deal with” the threat to peace and security of the region.

The new agreement is not a mutual security pact such as the U.S. has signed with many countries, but not with Israel, in the past. It does not commit the U.S. to come to Israel’s protection but only to cooperate with Israel against Soviet and Soviet-controlled forces posing threats to the region. (See P. 4 for full text.)

MAKES ISRAEL A SATELLITE

Former Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur said that “the way that agreement has been worded makes Israel into a sort of American satellite.” Gur, a leading Labor Party member of the Knesset, told Israel Radio that Washington was trying to preserve a low profile on all matters concerning Israel’s security in the Mideast while emphasizing the service it could obtain from Israel in the conflict between the U.S. and the USSR.

“There is no sense in Israel becoming a confrontation state for the Soviet Union by turning into an American arsenal,” Gur said. “The agreement is not for the good for Israel.”

The memorandum of understanding was also assailed by Communist Party Knesset member Toufik Toubi. He charged that the memo was tantamount to a declaration of war against the Soviet Union and that it would expose Israel as a military target in the case of a confrontation between the U.S. and the USSR.

But Dr. Eliahu Ben Elissar, former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, told Israel Radio that Israel was not going to fight for the United States and the agreement does not threaten Israel’s Arab neighbors. “The agreement is not aimed against our Arab neighbors but we need the U.S. against the Soviet Union, he said. The agreement states that the strategic cooperation “is not directed at any states within the region.”

The issue was also raised today in the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee which met with Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan. Eitan referred all questions dealing with the memorandum to Sharon, who ended his trip to Washington earlier than planned to take part in a Knesset debate tomorrow on this issue. Both the Alignment and the Communist Party intend to submit motions of no confidence in the government following the signing of the memorandum.

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