WASHINGTON (May. 11)
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben-Meir made a strong plea last night for time to allow the Israeli people to absorb the benefits as well as the sacrifices they have paid for peace. But at the same time he stressed Israel is committed to go through with the negotiations to provide autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“The pressures and tensions are certainly preferable to the ravages of waging war, but they also take their toll on the psyche of a people, ” Ben Meir, who is also a psychologist, told some 1,000 persons at the banquet of the 23rd annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
“After the traumatic experience of uprooting towns and villages, of forcibly removing people from their homes and farms,” he continued, “the people of Israel are entitled to a respite, there must be time for wounds to heal and for the benefits and blessings of the peace to be realized and appreciated.”
The official, who made aliya to Israel from the U.S. stressed that “we must convince ourselves, we must convince our people and we will convince our people, that Egypt’s intentions are genuine and true, that the peace is for real and is for good.”
NOTES THE ONUS IS ON EGYPT
This onus on Egypt was also stressed by Sen. Joseph Biden (D. Del.) who noted the standing ovation that Egyptian Ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal received when he was introduced from the dais. “The applause you received tonight had a very very significant dose of hope in it,” Biden said turning to Ghorbal.
Biden, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, explained that Americans and Israelis had put their “trust” in the “good will, honesty, integrity and forthright-ness” of Egypt. “The applause is not only for what you have already done, but what we know you will continue to do,” the Senator stressed.
Among others on the dais were Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens, who spoke at a luncheon earlier in the day; the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican, Committees, Charles Manett and Richard Richards, respectively; and two assistant Secretaries of State, Nicholas Veliates, who heads the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs, and Powell Moore, who is in charge of congressional relations. In addition to Biden, and Sen. Robert Kasten (R. Wis.) who spoke, the audience included 21 other U.S. Senators and 41 members of the House of Representatives.
Thomas Dine, AJPAC’s executive director, read a message from President Reagan which declared that “as a follow American I share your commitment to the well being of Israel. The commitment to Israel’s security remains unshakable.” Reagan stressed that in the U.S. search for peace in the Mideast, “nothing will be done to jeopardize Israel’s security.”
Ben Meir, said he was instructed by Premier Menachem Begin to say that “Israel will never forget” the help the U.S. gave it in achieving peace with Egypt. The Deputy Foreign Minister declared that in order to achieve the two “crucial objectives” of continued movement toward peace and obtaining an autonomy agreement, Israel needs “the mounting support of the United States.”
OUTLINES POWERS OF SELF-GOVERNING AUTHORITY
Ben Meir stressed that Israel is committed to autonomy “above all, because this is the only visible plan, the single and sole way to move Israel toward a wider peace in the Middle East.”
He said that Israel has proposed that the self-governing authority which would administer autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza, would have the powers of administration of justice, agriculture, finance, civil service, education and culture, including running the entire school system through higher education, health, housing and public works, transportation and communications, labor, social welfare, municipal affairs, local police, religious affairs, industry, commerce and tourism.
“Without any doubt, these powers embrace all walks of life and the transferring of all these powers, none of which is exercised today, nor was ever exercised by the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Judaea, Samaria and Gaza, constitute the bestowal of full-autonomy — in the full meaning of the term,” he stressed.
CRITICIZES SALE OF ARMS TO ARABS
The American-born Israeli diplomat criticized the proposed sale of arms to the Arab states, especially Jordan, not only because it “upsets the balance of power in the Middle East, severely endangers the security of Israel, can only lead to a deadly arms race, and God forbid, propel the Middle East toward a new war.” but also because such sales undermines the credibility of the United States which promised to maintain Israel’s “qualitative technical edge” in the Middle East.
Kasten told the audience that the developing good relations with the Arab states can “never” be “at the expense” of this country’s “special relationship” with Israel. But he said U.S.-Israel relations have become “strained” and urged that a first step toward improving this is the reinstitution of the Memorandum of Understanding on strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States.
Biden also charged that the U.S. is tilting away from Israel. He said the Reagan Administration’s strategic consensus policy in the Middle East was an effort to make Saudi Arabia and perhaps Jordan a “surrogate” for U.S. power in the Middle East. Biden declared that there was a “lack of understanding” in Washington that “America needs Israel” for its own security.
He said that while AlPAC and other groups have emphasized the moral commitment to Israel, the new generation in government no longer has the “gut” reaction to the Holocaust as did those who lived through World War II. He said what American people do not understand and should be made to understand is the “value of Israel as an ally” and its necessity to the security of the United States itself.
A few hours before the banquet, some of the AlPAC delegates attended a reception for Arens given by the Republican National Committee. The Israeli Ambassador said that it was the “support and sympathy” of the Administration, Congress and the American people which made the “difficult” period of the Sinai withdrawal “a great deal easier.”
Brief remarks welcoming Arens to Washington were made by Edward Rollins, an assistant to President Reagan; Senate Deputy Majority Leader Ted Stevens (R. Alaska); and Richard Allen, Reagan’s former National Security Advisor and now a special advisor to the Republican National Committee. Among those who attended the reception were Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Interior Secretary James Watt.