WASHINGTON (Mar. 20)
An official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has charged that Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger is conducting a “vendetta against Israel” which has resulted in what he termed “something just short of an arms embargo.” But only hours after the charge was made, AIPAC dissociated itself from any personal attacks made on Weinberger.
The official, Steven Rosen, AIPAC director of research and information, told a press conference here for the Israeli and Jewish media last Thursday that while President Reagan is considered friendly toward Israel, Weinberger’s close relations with the President has resulted in an Administration policy that has “tilted” toward the Arabs and against Israel.
Weinberger puts every act by Israel “in the worst light,” not only in his mind but also in the President’s mind, Rosen charged at the press conference which was called to discuss AIPAC’s new pamphlet, “Israel and the U.S. Air Force.”
The pamphlet argues that Israel, not any of the Arab countries, is the best site for American air bases, particularly to provide refueling and maintenance of U.S. planes protecting the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The pamphlet is a follow-up to one issued by AIPAC last year called “The Strategic Value of Israel.”
Rosen’s press conference was held coincidentally at just about the time the Defense Department was releasing a letter from Gen. Robert Barrow, the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, to Weinberger, charging that Israeli troops are deliberately threatening the lives of American military personnel in Lebanon for “political purposes” and urging that “firm and strong action” be taken by the U.S. to end the confrontations.
BEMOANS DEPARTURE OF HAIG AND ALLEN
Rosen asserted that there is no official in the Administration at a high level with a sympathetic view toward Israel since the departures last year of Secretary of State Alexander Haig and National Security Advisor Richard Allen.
The AIPAC official said the only “good things” that have emerged recently are such items as foreign aid which is directed by Congress. He claimed that even the Administration’s opposition to attempts to expel Israel from the United Nations was due to the mandate by Congress.
Rosen said the only weapons shipped to Israel in recent months have been II F-15 jets and 200 Sidewinder missiles. He said the Administration has held up since last May official notification to Congress of the sale of 75 F-16 jets even though they, like the F-15s, were promised to Israel in 1978 as a result of the weapons the U.S. sold to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.
As for Weinberger’s policy toward the Arabs, it is “come pick what you want and it’s yours,” Rosen said. He said it was “not clear what the Arabs wanted that he (Weinberger) turned down.”
EXPLAINS WHY AIPAC IS SPEAKING OUT
Rosen said AIPAC is speaking out because there has been an “obsession” over the last two years over what Israel has done to strain relations with the U.S. but little has been mentioned about what Weinberger has done to strain relations with Israel. He contended that Weinberger does not know the importance of Israel to U.S. security and has thus harmed American security.
In addition, Rosen warned, his anti-Israel policies may cause American Jews who, during the 1970s, supported increased spending for U.S. defense, to turn away from this support.
Rosen stressed that there was an ignorance of Israel’s strategic value in the Defense Department because the Pentagon has not studied it. He said that before 1979, the Pentagon concentrated on Europe and the Far East. But with the fall of the Shah of Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, large numbers of military men were sent to the Middle East to study the situation there.
He said this resulted in a “search for ways to cooperate closely with the Arabs” because there was a need to obtain “access arrangements” for bases in Arab countries. “A strategic concept evolved very sensitive to the strategic value of a number of Arab countries and surprisingly insensitive to the strategic value of Israel to the U.S.,” Rosen said. He charged that Defense Department officials are even warned against studying the strategic value of Israel.
CHARGES AGAINST WEINBERGER
Rosen noted that Weinberger had blocked the agreement upon which Israel would supply the U.S. with information that it learned about Soviet weapons as a result of the war in Lebanon as it had done after previous wars. He said the Secretary did not understand the complicated and long procedure needed to analyze these weapons.
The AIPAC official also charged that Weinberger was responsible for the position being taken by some that Israel’s destruction of Soviet-built Syrian missiles in Lebanon benefitted the USSR because the Russians would now improve their missile defenses. He said the Israelis could now take out the SAM-5 missiles that the Soviets have installed in Syria. But the difficulty there is diplomatic since the missiles are manned by Soviet technicians, he said.
AIPAC DISSOCIATES ITSELF FROM ‘PERSONAL REMARKS’
Several hours after the conference, AIPAC issued a statement through its spokesperson, Lisa Behren, that “any personal remarks” about Weinberger were “solely” that of Rosen’s.
She said that AIPAC’s well-known differences with the Administration are that it believes that “Israel is of strategic importance to the U.S. and current U.S. policy does not take advantage of that fact. It will be false to characterize this difference of opinion as personal criticism of the motives of the Secretary of Defense. Our concern remains what it has always been — policy, not personality.”