Reagan Promises U.S. to Remain ‘rock of Support’ for Israel

“As long as I am President, the United States will be a rock of support. We will not waiver in our commitment to protect Israel’s security,” President Reagan declared Friday in a speech via telephone from Camp David to delegates attending the 70th anniversary meeting here of the National Commission of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

“We are committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge in the military balance of power,” Reagan asserted. Both he and Samuel Lewis, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel who addressed the meeting in person, expressed optimism over the continuing improved relations between the U.S. and Israel. Reagan hailed the Israel-Lebanon agreement, signed May 17, as “one more step toward a more stable Middle East.”

Ambassador Lewis was more cautious about chances for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon on which implementation of the agreement depends. “The chances of implementing it remain in the air, ” he said.

Reagan said, “We are very pleased with the recent efforts of Secretary of State (George) Shultz in working out the Israeli-Lebanese withdrawal agreement.” He stressed however that “only through peace can Israel achieve real security. But Israel cannot make peace alone,” the President said.

“Other Arab states must formally recognize that Israel does exist and that she has a right to exist. We’ll continue our diplomatic efforts to seek a withdrawal from Lebanon of all foreign forces, Syrian, PLO, as well as Israeli. But we are very concerned about Soviet build-ups in Syria, ” Reagan said.

‘DISTURBED’ BY SOVIET STATEMENT

He also said that he is “very disturbed” that a Soviet official said last week that the majority of Jews who wanted to leave the USSR to reunite with their families have left. Noting that the Soviets signed the Helsinki Final Act in 1975 and pledged to be “positive and humanitarian” toward applications for family reunion, Reagan said, “Let us stand together, speak the truth and tell the Soviets to stop persecuting innocent people. Let Israel’s children go or face the world’s condemnation for making a mockery of this historic agreement which was signed by 35 nations.”

Lewis described U.S.-Israel relations today as “better, an awful lot better … and it’s going to get better in the weeks and months ahead. ” But he had some cautionary words. “Israel today is far too dependent on the U.S. for Israel’s own good and also for the good of the U.S.,” he said. “Some of Israel’s own leaders have been saying this more and more often, saying how crucial it is that Israel regain its own economic independence so that it will not be subject to American pressure or to the vagaries of American policy-makers. I couldn’t agree more with those Israeli leaders.”

The envoy proposed that Israel try to work its way out of “the onus of the balance of payments gap which makes Israel too dependent on the U.S. appropriations process for either side to be comfortable … Israel has not been able to achieve national independence in the total sense so long as its budget and its military acquisitions depend on the good will of anybody else, even a country as well intentioned as the United States.” This over-all dependence “produces a sense of frustration” in Israel and also in the U.S., Lewis said.

At another session of the meeting, ADL national director Nathan Perlmutter described U.S.-Israel relations this past year as “alternating showers of warm and cold water” for the American Jewish community. Discussing what he called the “roller coaster” of U.S. Mideast policy, Perlmutter said the high point was reached when the Secretary of State Alexander Haig demonstrated a “clear comprehension of America’s interests in a secure Israel.”

The low point came earlier this year, according to Perlmutter, when the Defense Department showed “seemingly blurred vision of the same American interest.” He was referring to the Department’s handling of an incident involving an Israeli patrol and an officer of the U.S. marine contingent at a Beirut checkpoint.

A study of how the ADL helped write American civil rights laws in its 35 year legal battle to end religious and racial discrimination, was issued. The study, “Friend of the Court–To Secure Justice and Fair Treatment for All”, describes more than 100 amicus curiae briefs filed by the ADL since the end of World War II. It was presented by Kenneth Bialkin, the ADL’s national chairman.

NEXT STORY