TEL AVIV (Mar. 2)
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger affirmed that the U.S. has and should have a strong alliance with Israel because “we are both very helpful to each other.” But he refused to say, in a Israel Radio interview from Washington today, whether the U.S. will now sign a memorandum of strategic cooperation with Israel.
Asked about a strategic accord long sought by Israel, Weinberger replied, “I think the main effort now ought to be on trying to get the President’s peace initiative adopted and the first step of that is to get Lebanon on its feet as a strong sovereign nation with all foreign forces removed.”
He indicated that the U.S. will not now lift the freeze on delivery of 75 F-16 jet fighters to Israel, imposed when Israel invaded Lebanon last June. Weinberger said there has been no change as yet and he knew of no contemplated change with respect to the deliveries.
He also observed that U.S. aid to Israel would be better served in other ways than by helping Israel build its Lavie fighter plane “which would contribute little to Israel’s air power, considering the planes it already possesses.”
The U.S. defense chief made the point that “America needs several friends in the Middle East and I think Israel needs several friends in the Middle East so that we should broaden these relationships and alliances.”
He also told Israel Radio that he got along well with former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and with Sharon’s successor, Moshe Arens, who was the Israeli Ambassador to Washington before he was named Defense Minister last month. He indicated he would like to maintain telephone contact with Arens to avoid misunderstandings.