WASHINGTON (Nov. 28)
Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens began three days of talks with the Reagan Administration today with what one Administration official described as a “full agenda” aimed at deepening the close relations between the two countries.
“I hope and believe that our visit will be a great contribution to the deepening and the strengthening of the friendly relations between the United States and Israel,” Shamir told reporters standing in pouring rain at the White House driveway after he had a 30-minute meeting with President Reagan.
Shamir and Arens are scheduled to meet Reagan again tomorrow for a working lunch. This is Shamir’s first visit to Washington as Premier and the first visit by an Israeli Premier since Menachem Begin was here in June, 1982. However, Shamir who is also Foreign Minister, and Arens, were here in July after Begin cancelled his scheduled visit.
The Israeli Premier began his day today by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery in memory of the U.S. servicemen who were killed in Lebanon. He and Arens had lunch at Secretary of State George Shultz’s home before a full afternoon of meetings at the State Department.
Before going to the White House tomorrow Shamir will have breakfast with Shultz while Arens will have breakfast with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Further State Department meetings are scheduled tomorrow afternoon and perhaps on Wednesday before Shamir addresses the National Press Club at noon. Vice President George Bush will host a dinner for the visiting Israelis tomorrow night.
SHARED INTERESTS AND COMMON GOALS STRESSED
The close relations between the two countries were stressed by Shamir on his arrival here last night. “Shared interests, common goals and similar suffering have drawn us even closer together,” he said. “I want to translate this kinship into a force that will address itself to the problems of our region.”
This was also stressed by a senior Administration official in briefing reporters today. “This is a meeting between good friends which comes at a time when our relations are very good and when both sides would like to see them made even better,” he said.
At the same time, the official stressed, “this does not mean that we are going to overlook differences or try to sweep them under the rug. It does mean that we don’t want to magnify those differences out of proportion” but “deal with them within the context of the deepening cooperation and friendship between our two states and the relationship of trust that exists between us.”
One difference that is certain to come up, the official made clear, is the U.S. opposition to Israel’s policy of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Before leaving Israel, Shamir said that his government would not consider a freeze on settlement activity even if such a request was made by the U.S. as an inducement for King Hussein of Jordan to enter peace negotiations. But the Administration official stressed today, “Settlements is not an issue that is going to be pushed under the table or brushed under the carpet.”
However, he said the settlement issue would be discussed in the context of Reagan’s “commitment” to his September 1, 1982 peace initiative. “This discussion will include settlements and the ways to improve the quality of Palestinian life in the occupied territory,” he said. He said the U.S. believes that settlements are an “obstacle” to the peace process.
DIFFERENCE OVER ARMS TO ‘MODERATE’ ARABS
Another difference between the two countries that will be discussed is the U.S. desire to provide arms for “moderate” Arab countries. “We will want to discuss our relations with moderate Arab countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and why these relationships are important to the United States and indeed to the entire Western world,” the Administration official said. He also noted that the Egyptian-Israeli relations would be discussed.
The situation in Lebanon and the threat of Syria will be high on the list of topics, as Shamir stressed on his arrival. The U.S. official conceded that the Syrian threat is one reason for the closer U.S.-Israeli relations.
“Syria is a problem in the area,” he said. “The increase in Syrian strength and Syrian assertiveness is an important element in improving and making more effective the United States-Israeli cooperation.”
COMMITMENT TO ISRAEL’S SECURITY
The official said that the U.S. is concerned not only about Syria’s refusal to talk about the terms for the removal of its forces from Lebanon but also about the increased military supplies to Syria, including SAM-5 missiles and other sophisticated hardware.
The official said this will be discussed with the Israelis in the context of the Administration’s “firm commitment to Israeli security and our commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge and its ability to defend itself against any combination of potential adversaries.”
The official said he could not say whether this would mean specific new requests for military and foreign aid. On economic aid, he said the discussion will center on “how we can help the Israeli government carry out the vigorous remedial measures that appear to be required” to strengthen the Israeli economy. But he said the Shamir visit was particularly “timely” on the aid discussion since the Administration was working on a 1985 budget.
The official also could not be specific on how strategic cooperation would be carried out and whether it would mean more than just closer coordination. But he said that such things as joint military maneuvers and pre-positioning of U.S. military supplies would be discussed.
On Lebanon, the official said the U.S. wants to cooperate with Israel in working together to achieve progress on “our common objectives” there. He said the problem of terrorism in Lebanon would also be discussed.
The official said that the Administration would probably be discussing the May 17 Israeli-Lebanese agreement both with Shamir and with Lebanese President Amin Gemayel who meets with Reagan on Thursday. Gemayel reportedly is seeking some changes in the agreement to placate the pro-Syrian groups in Lebanon. But the official reiterated the U.S. position that it is “a good agreement as it stands.”