U.S. Mideast Policies Under Fire

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R. Utah) sharply criticized aspects of the Reagan Administration’s policy in the Middle East, especially its suspension of the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation following Israel’s extension of civil law to the Golan Heights.

The Senator, addressing more than 400 delegates at the annual plenum of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) here, said Israel’s Golan action was “perfectly justifiable” and he expressed sorrow that the Administration supported Israel’s enemies by deploring the act, and “added insult to injury” by suspending the memorandum.

Hatch also criticized what he termed the Administration’s retributive responses to Israel’s earlier destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and the bombing of the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Beirut, by suspending the shipment of military aircraft to Israel for several weeks. He termed the two Israel actions as “highly justifiable military” moves.

SAYS U.S. IS PRESSURING ISRAEL

Prof. Robert Tucker of Johns Hopkins University, a Mideast expert, author of the recently published book “The Purpose of American Power,” and a former Defense Department consultant, termed the U.S. attempts at forging a “strategic consensus” against Soviet expansion in the Mideast to be in reality “a one-pillar policy” centered in Riyadh.

Rather than an even-handed policy of cementing ties to both Israel and “moderate” Arab states, Tucker said the U.S. was increasing pressure on Israel to accept Arab demands. He also said that the strategic cooperation agreement had been “a sop thrown by the U.S. to Israel for that one-pillar policy, which has no real substance.”

American policy, Tucker observed, is dominated by a fear of losing access to Persian Gulf oil. That fear, he said, stems from a weakening of U.S. power in the area, and an attempt to rely on “surrogate” states to protect the oil’s flow. Now, an attempt to build up Saudi Arabia as a replacement for Iran and Washington’s chief surrogate has led to a policy of yielding to Arab demands and a “slow but steady backing away” from an emphasis on negotiations, such as in the Camp David accords, Tucker said. He warned there would be more and more strains in U.S. Israeli relations in the future if the present American policy orientation continues.

CLAIMS U.S. POLICY IS INCONSISTENT

In his speech, Hatch assessed present U.S. Mideast policy as “inconsistent” because of the contradictions between Reagan’s “feelings for the state of Israel,” on the one hand and a policy of promoting closer ties to the Arab world, on the other, which Hatch traced to “holdover” advisers in the State and Defense Departments.

The Utah Republican said the situation “leaves those of us in the Senate who wish to support President Reagan in an agonizing position of uncertainty about which ‘President Reagan’ we should support.” But Hatch said he felt that the President has not yet formulated a “definitive approach to the Mideast that will characterize his Administration” and he hoped that a clear, pro-Israel Reagan policy would emerge during the next year.

Hatch termed the present situation critical for Israel because it is engaged in “fierce political warfare” against Arab powers who hope to win politically what they have failed to win by force of arms. He summarized the Arab goals as “the three no’s: no recognition, no legitimacy, and no negotiations”; all of which mean a refusal to accept that Israel even has a right to exist. Hatch said he hoped that President Reagan would reject the misguided and mistaken policy of trying to win over Arab states by forcing Israel to bend to unreasonable Arab demands.

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