NEW YORK (Dec. 16)
The Reagan Administration will support the sale of U.S. arms to Jordan without any precondition that King Hussein will enter the Camp David peace talks, according to Presidential Counselor Edwin Meese in an exclusive interview in the December 17 Long Island Jewish World.
Meese, in a White House interview conducted this week by Stewart Ain and William Bole of the Jewish World staff, said that Jordan’s acceptance of the Camp David process was “unrelated” to the proposed sale of U.S. arms to Jordan. He said President Reagan hoped that “moderate Arab states, including Jordan, would be brought into the peace process,” but in response to a question about whether the arms sale would go through without a commitment to come to the peace table, Meese replied:
“I don’t think the two are related. I don’t think one is a quid pro quo for the other …. I don’t see them being linked.”
Asked whether he believed the Administration was satisfied with the actions of Saudi Arabia, which last year received Congressional approval to buy AWACS and other sophisticated military hardware, Meese said: “I think so. I think that the Saudi Arabian leadership has been very helpful, and we continue to work with them with the hope that they will become increasingly involved in the peace process.”
DENIES U.S. IS LEANING ON ISRAEL
Asked if the Administration was “leaning” on Israel by urging a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and continuing to hold up the delivery of 75 F-16 jets, the Presidential Counselor replied:
“I don’t see us leaning on anybody. We’re talking about our dealings with another sovereign nation with whom we have the friendliest of relations. What we are doing, I think, is consulting and talking in good faith with them about how we can together achieve a mutual objective — peace and stability in the Middle East.”
On the resumption of deliveries of the F-16s, Meese said: “At an appropriate time I am sure these deliveries will be resumed. This is now in the hands of the Pentagon as far as any recommended schedule, and it’s not something that’s appropriate for me to particularly go further and comment on.”
NO LINKAGE ON FOREIGN AID
He rejected the suggestion that the U.S. foreign aid package for Israel was linked to the political situation in the Mideast. “It is strictly on the merits of how we apportion the available funds among the various commitments and in which … Israel has the top priority,” Meese said.
He pointed out that although the Administration opposed a Congressional move to improve the terms and amount of American aid to Israel, he believed the U.S. has been “extremely forthcoming in aid to Israel.” This aid, Meese said, represented about 80 percent of America’s total foreign assistance package.
He said he understood the “trauma” the American Jewish community faced with Reagan continuing to advocate a peace plan that Israel has firmly rejected. The President, Meese said, “hops for understanding of his position, and that is a continued commitment to the stability and security and existence of Israel … and a long-term solution that will bring peace and stability to the Middle East.” Reagan, he added, “looks to the American Jewish community for support in this effort.”
He also said that Reagan has no plans to travel to the Mideast to push personally for his peace plan. Meese asserted that the Reagan plan was not dead because it had been rejected by the Arab League at its summit meeting in Fez, Morocco last September. He said the President’s plan was receiving additional support, adding: “We think it is the only existing and viable means for achieving peace in the Middle East.”