Washington (Dec. 28)
The Reagan Administration appeared to be moving over the weekend toward healing the sharp rift that developed with Israel over its annexation of the Golan Heights and the subsequent suspension by the U.S. of its recently signed strategic cooperation agreement with Israel.
This was indicated in the remarks of two top Administration officials in television interviews yesterday and the State Department’s disclosure today that the U.S. “is in communication with the Israelis on reinstatement” of the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation which was suspended December 18.
EXPECTS NO FURTHER AGGRAVATION
Appearing on the CBS-TV “Face the Nation” program, Walter Stoessel, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said the Administration expects “no further aggravation of the relationship” between the U.S. and Israel. At the same time, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, answering questions on the ABC-TV “This Week With David Brinkley” program, declared, “It is inconceivable to me that we would accept sanctions in the UN against Israel.”
Stoessel was asked if governments recently sanctioned by the U.S. (Israel, Poland and Soviet occupied Afghanistan) “have been responsive.” He replied, “I think they are taking our views seriously. We have made our points … With Israel, I think there is a lot of reflection going on about the situation and I think the prospects are there for no further aggravation of the relationship.”
Kirkpatrick was asked if the U.S. would endorse a resolution in the Security Council calling for sanctions against Israel or if it would “revamp that resolution so that it is something we can vote for rather than veto.” She replied, “We haven’t even had a resolution … It is impossible to guess what our response will be to resolutions that do not exist.”
WON’T ACCEPT SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL
Kirkpatrick added: “We understand that the Syrians and some of their colleagues right now are considering whether they want to come in with a very strong resolution to impose sanctions or whether they want to come in with a mild resolution and hope for consensus … It is inconceivable to me that we would accept sanctions in the UN against Israel.”
Kirkpatrick’s remarks were today echoed in part by State Department spokesman Dean Fischer. He told reporters, “We do not have the text of a resolution on sanctions or on any proposed action relating to Israel’s so-called annexation of the Golan Heights and until we do it doesn’t serve any useful purpose to speculate on how we might vote.”
Fischer explained his uncertainty as to whether Israel in fact annexed the Golan Heights by noting that there was “debate even among learned lawyers as to whether Israel’s action constituted annexation per se … In any event, we do not recognize it and I think that is the important point.”
REFUSES COMMENT ON ARENS, SHARON STATEMENTS
Fischer refused to comment on the attack on U.S. Middle East policy over the weekend by Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and Ambassador-designate to the U.S., and the charge by Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon that the U.S. had “breached” its strategic cooperation agreement with Israel and would attempt to force Israel back to its 1967 borders after the withdrawal from Sinai is completed next April.
“Essentially, we have already stated our position on not proceeding with the memorandum of understanding that the Defense Minister referred to,” Fischer said. “I would simply reiterate the Administration’s position regarding Israel’s action on the Golan, so for that reason I don’t see any reason to respond to the critical characterization of U.S. policy by Mr. Arens.”
Asked about Sharon’s reference to a provision in the memorandum for cancellation after six month’s notice, Fischer said: “We regard it as a suspension, or something that is held in abeyance. We do not see it as something being cancelled at all.” He added that the U.S. “is in communication with the Israelis on reinstatement of the memorandum and a number of other subjects.”
Fischer refused to comment on reports that Premier Menachem Begin sent President Reagan a Christmas message that was “close to an apology” for his recent bitter attack on U.S. behavior toward Israel.
Fischer would neither confirm nor deny reports that Secretary of State Alexander Haig is going to select from among 3-4 candidates a special envoy to represent the U.S. at the autonomy talks. Names mentioned for that post, held in the Carter Administration by Sol Linowitz, are Gen. Brent Scowcroft who was President Ford’s security aide; Joseph Sisco, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs during Henry Kissinger’s tenure at the State Department; and Winston Lord, a former Haig deputy now president of the Council on Foreign Relations.