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Percy Says U.S. Cannot Damage Its Global Interests by Defending ‘objectionable’ Israeli Policies

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Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned Israel today that it cannot expect the United States to damage its global interests by defending “questionable or objectionable” Israeli actions or policies.

U.S. global interests and responsibilities “include the security of Israel, “Percy told a National Press Club luncheon in a report on his recent 38-day visit to Israel and 13 Arab countries. He said he did not meet with any leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“Israel has seen U.S. willingness to fully support them against overwhelming opposition when we believe they are right.” Percy said. “But Israel cannot expect the United States to continue isolating itself from the world community to defend questionable and or objectionable actions in policies. The Israelis must stop ‘surprising’ the international community and the United States with preemptive acts that are viewed by the community of nations as violations of international norms, harmful to U.S. interests and damaging to the peace process that must now proceed in the Middle East.”

DECRIES LACK OF COMMUNICATION

At the same time, Percy decried a lack of communication between Israel and the United States, noting that the Israelis “have been honestly surprised by the harsh response” of the Reagan Administration’s response to some of their actions. He said: “The Israelis should have been aware in advance to what extent the U.S. would react and we should have been aware of the imminence of Israeli intention to apply their law to the Golan Heights.”

Percy revealed that while in Israel he got Premier Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and other leading Israelis to agree “to reduce the level of critical rhetoric,” an “informal agreement” that has been “faithfully observed” by the U.S. and Israel since midnight December 29.

PERCEPTIONS AMONG THE ARABS

As for the Arab states, Percy said the main reason for the “lukewarm response” to the Reagan Administration’s efforts to achieve a strategic consensus against the Soviet Union in the Middle East is not that the moderate Arab leaders are not necessarily concerned about the USSR, but they are more concerned about the response from their people if they form too close a relationship with the U.S.

“The single issue which created the greatest strain in our bilateral relationships and which is allowing the Soviets to make advances is a widely held perception in the Arab world that the United States government is not committed to a just and equitable settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, including a settlement of those grievances that are reasonable and just,” Percy said.

He added that Arab leaders all said they would accept Israel behind secure and recognized borders if Israel withdrew to the pre-1967 lines. He said their perception is that Israel does not want to withdraw but wants to maintain settlements on the West Bank. He said Israeli leaders denied this and said everything is open to negotiations.

But Percy declared that “the premise” that the U.S. has operated under since 1967 is that Israel would “essentially withdraw” from the occupied territory “in exchange for a genuine negotiated peace, secure borders and normal relations with its neighbors especially including recognition of their right to exist.”

Percy charged that “many Israeli policies today-continued settlement in occupied territories and the quasi-annexation of those territories — raise questions about whether Israeli policy is raised on the same premise.”

URGES BROADENING OF CAMP DAVID PROCESS

Percy called on the U.S. to take the leadership in broadening the Camp David process to solve the Palestinian problem and to help Israel achieve peace with the Arab neighbors on the East. He noted that both Israel and Syria were the leading critics of the eight-point plan proposed by Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia. He said that he urged both governments to accept the points of the plan of which they approve of and negotiate on the rest.

The Senator said that he welcomes the appointment of Richard Fairbanks as a special U.S. representative for Mideast negotiations even though Fairbanks is unfamiliar with the region. He explained that this meant that Secretary of State Alexander Haig would be intimately involved in the negotiations, since Fairbanks would be going to the region but will be reporting directly to Haig.

PREMISES OF ACHIEVING PEACE

Percy gave his own premises for achieving a Mideast peace. He said this includes commitment to a negotiated peace, acceptance of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the recognition of the right of all nations in the area to exist behind accepted and secure borders. “The Arab states must explicitly — and publicly, not just privately — accept Israel and agree to reach out in an effort to establish normal relations in the context of a just peace, “he said.

Percy also said that peace requires understanding that it can only come “from negotiations based on an exchange of land taken in 1967 for peace, security and recognition.” He said peace also requires that “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people must be addressed and the Palestinians must participate in determining their own destiny. A solution cannot be imposed on them.” A comprehensive peace also requires dealing with the “agony of Lebanon,” Percy added.

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