Jerusalem (Dec. 22)
Israel’s next Ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens, maintained today that the U.S.-Israeli strategic cooperation agreement was meaningless to begin with and “both countries will be better off without” it.
According to Arens, who is chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Israel had entered into the agreement on the assumption that it would be of advantage to both parties.
“It was only when the (Reagan) Administration, as a punitive measure, decided to suspend the agreement that it became clear to us that it was the Administration’s perception that this agreement does not serve the interests of the U.S. but is rather looked upon as a bonus to the Israeli which is now being taken back as part of these punitive measures,” Arens said in a radio interview.
He was referring to Washington’s suspension of the memorandum of understanding that was to implement the strategic cooperation agreement following Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. The memorandum was signed by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on November 30.
Arens, who goes to Washington next month to succeed Ephraim Evron as Israel’s Ambassador, pointed out that the agreement has never been ratified either by the U.S. Congress or the Knesset, nor has the Cabinet here given it formal approval. “It is not an agreement that is in force, obviously, and it is doubtful if it is an agreement which will be in force in the future,” he said.
DEBATE PENDING ON NO CONFIDENCE MOTION
The Knesset, meanwhile, was preparing for debate tomorrow on a motion of no confidence over the deterioration of U.S.-Israeli relations. The Labor opposition is zeroing in on Premier Menachem Begin’s stinging attack on the U.S. Administration Sunday for suspending the strategic cooperation agreement. Many Israelis believe Begin’s remarks were intemperate. But the motion, drafted by the Shinui faction and supported by the Labor Alignment, is expected to be defeated.
The ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction, and Telem, the faction organized by the late Moshe Dayan, see it as a referendum on the Golan annexation bill and will support the government. But Labor hawks who supported the Golan bill said they would vote for the no confidence motion as matter of principle.
Despite the apparent safe majority, Likud was mustering its forces. Coalition MKs who are abroad or otherwise absent have been summoned to the Knesset for the debate and vote. The Likud Knesset faction is scheduled to meet shortly on another issue — reports that several Cabinet Ministers were cowed into silence when they appeared critical of Begin’s verbal attack on U.S. policy.
MK Yitzhak Seiger, who asked for the discussion, said today that if true “it is improper conduct for Cabinet members” to fail to speak out. Similar comments were made by Deputy Premier David Levy who challenged those Ministers who did not go along with Begin’s remarks to say so openly.