WASHINGTON (May. 23)
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger denied today that there is any reason for “antipathy” toward him in the Jewish community.
“I don’t know why there should be any antipathy, there is certainly none on my part,” he said in response to a question after his address to the 42nd annual meeting of the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. He said his talk to the AJPA and other Jewish groups should have “long ago” cleared up his position.
While there was no direct mention of the belief in the Jewish community that Weinberger is anti-Israel, AJPA president Jerome Lippman, publisher of the Long Island Jewish World, touched the subject indirectly in his introduction of Weinberger.
American Jews know that “what is good for Israel is good for America,” Lippman said. He added that it seems some times that this is “not sufficiently appreciated by the Administration or the Pentagon.”
U.S.-ISRAELI RELATIONSHIP STRONGER THAN EVER
In his prepared remarks, Weinberger stressed that the U.S.-Israeli relationship “has never been stronger.” He noted the U.S. “continued commitment to Israel’s security and well-being” as evidenced by the record of foreign aid to Israel and the new strategic and political cooperation that is going on.
Weinberger particularly seemed to stress the new agreement for using Israeli medical facilities. He noted that a marine badly injured in an accident as well as a premature infant born to an Air Force family were recently taken to Israeli hospitals where they recovered.
When he was asked why the U.S. did not use Israeli hospitals after the marines’barracks were blown up in Lebanon in October, 1983, he repeated his often stated assertion that the commanders at the scene felt that other facilities were adequate.
Weinberger stressed that the U.S. was concerned about the threat of Soviet intrusion into the Middle East and the danger this posed to Western oil supplies. He said the new strategic agreements with Israel demon- strated that both countries were determined to “do something about” deterring the Soviets. At the same time, he stressed, “we must maintain security assistance programs with the moderate Arab governments in addition to Israel.” He said they were threatened by terrorism from Syria with the backing of the Soviet Union. “U.S. assistance to counter terrorism makes an important contribution to regional security” and is in “the long-term interests of Israel.”
However, Weinberger stressed that security comes from peace. “Israel cannot make peace by itself and we understand the United States cannot impose peace and should not try,” he said. But he said the U.S. should try to provide the security and the help to bring about peace. He stressed that President Reagan’s September 1, 1982 Middle East peace initiative was the “only workable prescription to accomplish” this.
U.S. NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR SOVIET JEWRY’S PLIGHT
In a speech last night to the opening session of the four-day conference, Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, denied that it was the “tough talk” of the Reagan Administration that has resulted in the Soviet Union’s harsh treatment of Jews.
“Let us stop looking everywhere but the Kremlin for explanations,” he said. “Jews are in jail in the Soviet Union, Jews are forbidden to leave the Soviet Union, Jews are persecuted for practicing their religion in the Soviet Union because of decisions made in Moscow, not in Jerusalem or Washington. The Soviets are orchestrating a vicious and escalating anti-Semitic propaganda campaign under the guise of anti-Zionism.”
EXTREME LEFT POSES MAIN THREAT TO JEWISH SURVIVAL
Abrams said that the “principle threat to Jewish survival now comes from the extreme left.” He said while there are still rightwing anti-Semitic groups, they “do not pose nearly as great a threat to the survival of the Jewish people as does Soviet anti-Semitism on the one hand and the anti-Semitism of left-wing Arab extremists of the Libyan or PLO variety on the other.”
Abrams held out little hope for improvement this year, noting that the USSR does not want to do anything that would help re-elect Reagan. But he stressed that public opinion in the West does put a check on Soviet oppression of Jews.
Asked about Ethiopian Jewry, Abrams said that the situation is “better than it has been in a few years and that there is now a steady flow (of Ethiopian Jews) going to Israel.”