JERUSALEM (Jan. 26)
Israelis seemed to be convinced today, the third day of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s five-day official visit, that West Germany’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia is final and there is not much Israel can do to prevent it.
The Israelis do not doubt the sincerity of assurances by Kohl and various officials in his party that the Bonn government would give serious consideration to Israel’s objections. But remarks by Kohl, and even more so by some of his aides, indicated that the commitment to the Saudis is firm and only the timing of the deal and the nature of the weapons to be sold remain to be determined.
Kohl met with Premier Yitzhak Shamir today for the third time since his arrival in Jerusalem Tuesday. Shamir continued to press Israel’s demand that the arms deal be shelved and said the Israeli public would never be able to forgive such a deal. Although the Chancellor insisted there was no final decision on the issue, his spokesmen were less assuring.
CITE AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE ON ARMS SALES
There was an agreement in principle with the Saudis to sell them arms and which cannot be ignored they said. What has not been decided is when the agreement will be implemented. Deputy Foreign Minister Alois Mertes, who is accompanying Kohl and is a friend of Israel, said on a Voice of Israel radio interview today that Bonn had said “yes” in principle to the Saudis. The final terms of the deal would be determined only after Kohl has heard the Israeli views Mertes said, meaning after he returns to Bonn.
Another German spokesman, Peter Beinish, said the Saudis have not yet submitted their “shopping list.” In any case, he said, Bonn would demand guarantees from them that whatever weapons they receive would not be transferred to a third party. This was a response to the Israeli argument that arms sold to the Saudis would eventually be used against Israel, directly or indirectly. Beinish added that the moral question has “many aspects”, noting that Germany had a moral commitment to keep promises it made in the past.
That commitment is re-enforced, he said, by the fact that Saudi Arabia provided $10 billion in credit to West Germany for public sector development in the years 1980-1982.
SAYS SCHMIDT WAS RESPONSIBLE
Kohl himself sought to pass responsibility to his predecessor, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who had bitter personal relations with former Israeli Premier Menachem Begin. Kohl said that when he took office last year, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia had already been given to understand that the arms deal was final. He added that it would be very difficult to convince Fahd that the deal would not include West Germany’s Leopard II tank, regarded by experts as the best of its kind in the world.
German sources said only last week that the Leopard II was not on the Saudi list though anti-aircraft tanks and missiles were. Israel considers any of these weapons to pose a severe danger to its security.
Kohl and Shamir are scheduled to hold a final meeting Sunday, just before the Chancellor returns to Germany. Spokesmen for both parties said today that their three meetings so far were held in an “excellent atmosphere” and were satisfactory to both sides.