JERUSALEM (Mar. 9)
Israel’s policy in Africa, particularly its arms sales to Zaire, was the subject of debate in the Knesset today. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, speaking for the government, said Israel would do its utmost to strengthen its ties with African regimes.
He spoke in reply to an agenda motion by Shulamit Aloni of the Labor Alignment who warned against Israeli involvement in the internal affairs of African nations. Aloni was particularly concerned over the possibility that Israel would become embroiled in the tense situation in Zaire’s Shaba region bordering on Soviet-backed Angola.
“We might get our soldiers mixed up in incidents against a country which is supported by the Russians,” she said. She also criticized the supply of military equipment and know-how to the government of President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire which she called a “brutal and dictatorial regime.”
SHAMIR DEFENDS ISRAEL’S POLICY
Shamir visited Zaire last month to negotiate, among other things, the sale of Israeli arms and the training of Zairian soldiers by Israelis. The Foreign Minister defended his policy and the arms deals. He noted that when he was in Kinshasa there were also military delegations from China, France and Belgium.
Shamir noted that Zaire was the first black African nation to resume diplomatic ties with Israel since the Yom Kippur War “and we are grateful for that.” He added that as Israel is trying to advance its relations with other African countries, “all those countries watch how our relations with Zaire will develop.”
Shamir was supported by Likud MK Yigael Hurwitz who said Israel had no choices but to sell arms to any country willing to buy them. “The market is in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” he said. “We would have liked to export to Holland, Norway and Finland, but this is impossible,” Hurwitz added. He observed that the Socialist government of France was trading in arms with the entire Third World.
Shamir, replying to an agenda motion on a different subject, said there were no signs that Jordan was coming to the negotiating table. He said the recent statement by King Hussein at the meeting of non-aligned nations in New Delhi that he and the Palestine Liberation Organization were getting closer was not “encouraging.”
Shamir added: “We must be attentive to the voices of peace and welcome them. But at the same time we must be able to distinguish between attempts to deprive us of both national and security assets on the pretext of peace and between true and sincere expressions of a desire for peace and co-existence.”