PARIS (Dec. 11)
U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz ran into a hail of opposition and complaints during his first trip to the Arab world since Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s recent visit to Washington.
Both Tunisia and Morocco complained about the Israeli-American plan for strategic cooperation but Shultz told reporters, “I was surprised that anyone could be surprised. Everyone should know by now that there is and there will be a strong relationship with Israel.”
The Secretary of State conferred today in Rabat with Morocco’s King Hassan II in what the Moroccan press agency said was “an atmosphere of anxiety.”
Yesterday, Shultz met in Tunis with President Habib Bourguiba and members of the Tunisian government. Both Tunis and Morocco are traditionally American allies and are known for their moderate attitudes in the Middle East conflict. According to reporters accompanying him, Shultz seemed taken aback by the strong local opposition.
With the Moroccan and Tunisian leaders Shultz stressed time and again that the need for closer political and military relationships between America and Israel was needed because of the unprecedented Soviet infiltration in the area and Soviet influence in Syria.
COMMUNISM PREFERABLE TO ISRAEL
The Tunisian Press said that one of Bourguiba’s aides retorted: “If the moderate Arab states are forced to choose between the Soviet Union on the one hand, and Israel on the other, most of us would opt for Communism.”
The American delegation later said it had remained firm and that it believes the American position should be better explained to the Arab states to make them realize that Washington’s policy is for the good of all nations in the Mideast.