WASHINGTON (Apr. 26)
Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said today that he hoped to be going soon to Israel but that no date has been set as yet for his first visit to the Jewish State.
Answering questions at a luncheon of the Overseas Writers, Weinberger denied on Israeli report that a possible visit next month has been blocked by National Security Advisor William Clark. The Defense Secretary said that although he was attending the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels next week, the State Department felt there was not enough time to make the preparations for a visit to Israel. He said an effort would be made to find a time convenient to both him and the Israelis.
Weinberger was invited to Israel last November 30 by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon when the two officials signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Cooperation here. But Weinberger, who had been expected to go to Israel when he visited Saudi Arabia, Oman and Jordan in February, did not schedule a stop in Jerusalem, reportedly because of U.S. pique at Israel’s annexation of the Golon Heights.
VIEW OF THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
The Memorandum of Understanding was suspended by the U.S. at the time because of the Israeli action. But Weinberger said today that there was a “misunderstanding” on the status of the memorandum. While he did not explain the exact status today, he said he believed the difficulties would be straightened out soon.
However, Weinberger said that efforts to meet the Soviet threat to the Middle East was still part of U.S. policy. He said the strategic agreement with Israel was aimed at only a threat to the Mideast from the Soviet Union and not at any country or groups of countries in the region.
But Weinberger said Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai yesterday was the “first step” in a series of steps toward a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. He repeated his often stated position that while the U.S. is pledged to maintain the security of Israel, it needs more than one friend in the Mideast.
Weinberger also indicated that he favors providing Jordan with the F-16 jets and Hawk mobile missiles that the Hashemite kingdom is expected to request. But he said that Jordan hasn’t made a formal request as yet but one might come during the meeting of the U.S.-Jordanian joint military committee in Jordan this week.
Weinberger said he doubted that Jordan could be persuaded to cancel its order of missiles from the Soviet Union which it ordered late last year. But he said it would be “unfortunate” if Jordan had to depend on the Soviet Union as its major source of arms. He warned that a great deal comes in Soviet arms sales in addition to “the owner’s manual.”