WASHINGTON (Nov. 8)
Lawrence Eagleburger, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, during his visit to Israel last week, discussed “strategic cooperation” between the United States and Israel by looking at the “common interests” of the two countries not only in the Middle East but on a global scale, according to a senior State Department official.
The official, briefing reporters yesterday on the Eagleburger visit, refused to discuss specifically what strategic cooperation involved. He said it required further discussions which would be carried out when Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir visits Washington, perhaps as early as this month.
But the official seemed to rule out two areas of cooperation. He said the memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, which has been gathering mothballs for nearly two years, was not even discussed.
The official also said there was no discussion of joint Israeli-U.S. military action in Lebanon. He said there was no discussion of getting Israel “back into the act” in Lebanon.
NO DIFFERENCES ON MAY 17 ACCORD
At the same time, the official stressed that the U.S. stands by the May 17 Israeli-Lebanese agreement. “This is not an area of disagreement between us and the Israelis,” he said. The official maintained that Lebanese President Am in Gemayel also stands by the agreement and if he should decide he wants it renegotiated he would find that the U.S. disagrees.
However, the official did reveal one specific of Eagleburger’s visit to Israel. The Israelis were told that the U.S. will approve using foreign military aid funds for research and developments of the Lavie, the plane the Israelis want to build.
Only last week Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, at a Pentagon briefing for the National Council of Young Israel, said the U.S. opposes using the military aid for this purpose but would have no objection to economic aid being used for the Lavie. Weinberger, who reportedly has been the chief obstacle to the needed U.S. approval to the Lavie, has been opposed to the efforts by Secretary of State George Shultz for closer ties with Israel, arguing that it would harm U.S. relations with the Arabs.
But the senior State Department official yesterday maintained that this would not happen. He said Eagleburger discussed U.S. relations with the Arabs with the Israelis as well as Israel’s West Bank settlement policy. Eagleburger stressed to the Israelis that President Reagan’s September 1982 Mideast peace initiative “continues to be our policy.”
The Israelis expressed several concerns to Eagleburger, according to the official. First they were worried about Syria’s “increasingly hardline” position, its refusal to negotiate in Lebanon and the “uncertainty as to the consequences” of the continuing Syrian military buildup, much of it with Soviet arms.
Eagleburger was also told of Israeli concern that if the intermediate range nuclear force (INF) talks in Europe fail the Soviets might respond by causing trouble in the Mideast. The official said the U.S. believes that the more likely response by the Soviets would be in Europe.
The Eagleburger visit grew out of a decision by Shamir and Shultz that there should be twice yearly meetings between Eagleburger and David Kimche, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry to discuss issues other than the Middle East. Kimche was in Washington last spring and Eagleburger returned the visit last week. But the situation last week placed the Mideast issue high on the agenda.
ISRAEL SHOWS ‘UNDERSTANDING’ OF U.S.’ GRENADA ACTION
In addition to Lebanon and Syria, the official said there was a great deal of talk about the Soviet Union, Central America, and Africa. The official added that Grenada was discussed.
“The Israelis, unlike some others demonstrated a good bit of understanding of the reasons for the President’s decision to go into Grenada, and equally unlike some others demonstrated substantial understanding of the strategic importance of what we found on the island,” the official said.