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Weinberger: Israel is Not a Liability

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Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger strongly denied today that he considers Israel a “strategic liability,” maintaining that he considers the Jewish State as well as most Arab countries “strategic assets.”

Weinberger’s denial came when he was asked on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press” about the belief that he feels Israel is a liability. “The only people who think that are people who don’t bother to talk with me,” he replied.

“I consider Israel a strategic asset,” he stressed. “I consider many other countries in the Mideast strategic assets. I think we need many friends in the Mideast, including Israel, but including also Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Oman and Kuwait and the Gulf states and many others. It is essential that we maintain good and cordial and strong and close relationships with all of these nations. I do not consider Israel or any other of these countries with one or two notable exceptions such as Iran, a strategic liability.”

DENIES RECOMMENDING ARMS EMBARGO ON ISRAEL

Weinberger denied that he recommended an arms embargo on Israel after the Israeli army went into Lebanon last June. But he said the U.S. has held up approving the sale of 75 F-16 jets to Israel because “serious questions were raised” about whether Israel has been using U.S. arms, including planes, “only in self-defense,” as required by U.S. law and in the arms sales agreements with Israel. He said the planes will not be sent to Israel “pending the outcome of this investigation.”

Weinberger also rejected Israel’s charges that incidents between the Israeli army and the U.S. marines in Lebanon would not have happened if there had been better liaison between the two forces. “We do have liaison at all levels where it is required,” he said. “We do have basically the same kind of liaison that is possessed by the other members of the multinational force” the British, French and Italian.

He said the marine commander in the field can contact the Israelis at any time and did so only last week. He added that in a recent talk with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, he was assured there would be no more incidents from the Israeli side. Weinberger said he was “very hopeful” that the incidents have ceased.

But when pressed to discuss the incidents outlined in the letter to him by Gen. Robert Barrow, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Weinberger said “his letter speaks for itself.” He said the letter which charged the Israelis with harassment of the marines, was sent to the State Department which discussed the issue with Israel. He noted that since then the situation has “much improved.”

But Weinberger added that “the solutions to all of this” is for an agreement to be reached in which “all of the foreign forces, the Israelis, Syrians, PLO and ultimately the multinational force, all get out of Lebanon.”

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