Menu JTA Search

Background Report Changing U.S. Stance Toward Israel

The U.S. Administration’s tough fight against increasing aid to Israel is seen in some government quarters here as part of a broader and deeper change in American attitude towards Israel. This change is seen in these quarters as having begun with the replacement of Alexander Haig as Secretary of State by George Shultz.

These Israeli government quarters say they prefer not to blame Shultz exclusively or directly for what they perceive to be a sharp downturn in American policy, “through he of course is the helmsman of U.S. foreign policy.” Rather, they say, the end of Haig’s tenure and the advent of Shultz marked a return to prominence and influence of the traditional anti-Zionism of the U.S. State Department.

These Israeli government quarters gave their analysis after the weekly Cabinet meeting here today. They claimed their views were not necessarily representative of the thrust of the Cabinet debate; nevertheless, the timing of their remarks was plainly significant.

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir briefed the Cabinet on the latest developments in Washington regarding the aid package to Israel. Shamir has publicly accused the Administration of violating its commitments to Israel by linking the aid to policy differences.

STANCE FIRST EXPRESSED SEPTEMBER 1

The government quarters said the first expression of the turnabout of Washington’s policy had been President Reagan’s Mideast peace proposals, broadcast by the President on national TV September 1– without any prior consultation with Israel.

The government quarters here recalled that President Ford in 1975 had committed the U.S., in agreements linked to the interim Sinai settlement, not to put forward new peace plans without prior consultation with Israel.

The Reagan proposal, these quarters opined, represented a total deviation from Camp David in that it addressed itself to the issues which Camp David deliberately left unresolved pending the five-year autonomy period.

Another symbol of the change for the worse: The Administration’s “sudden and unjustified” preoccupation with the settlements issue. The Israeli government quarters contended that there had been no quickening of the peace of West Bank settlements of late that could have triggered the spate of American criticism and condemnation. “The change is on the U.S. side… it is intended to woo the Arabs,” these quarters said.

A third example of the worsening attitude was the U.S. Administration’s disproportionate and unfair involvement and criticism of Israel in connection with the West Bank foreign lecturers.

Academics on the West Bank have been refusing to sign a dissociation-from-the-PLO form and as a result 20 of them have already been deported.

Public American references to this issue as a matter of a “loyalty oath” were plainly tendentious and were intended, the Israeli quarters claimed, to “hint towards the PLO.”

In fact, the quarters continued, the thrust of American policy, though ostensibly focused towards Jordan’s King Hussein, was actually directed towards wooing the PLO — because the Americans knew full well that Hussein could not move without PLO approbation.

In this connection the quarters noted critically a media report today to the effect that U.S. special envoy Philip Habib had spoken of the need for an Israel-Egypt-Jordan-U.S.-PLO negotiation. Washington, the quarters said, had “returned to Arafat the key to Mideast negotiation which operation Peace for Galilee deprived him of.”

Observers here noted that highly placed U.S. government sources have explained that Reagan administration policy has been consistent. There has been no sudden change: Just a readiness now to dwell on controversial issues, a readiness which did not exist to such an extent before the completion of the Sinai withdrawal earlier this year.

These U.S. sources said the Administration had planned to get into the nitty-gritty of the Palestinian autonomy issues after the Sinai withdrawal was completed — but the Lebanon war had put those plans out of joint. The basic intention, however, remained.

Israeli officials, cleaving to their downbeat analysis, said it “does not bade well” for the U.S.-Israel relationship. The planned summit talks, therefore, between Reagan and Premier Menachem Begin early next year would be extremely important.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has approved instructions to Ambassador Moshe Arens in Washington to lobby intensively both with Congress and with the Administration in favor of the aid increases recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

NEXT STORY