WASHINGTON (Oct. 10)
Israeli Premier Shimon Peres said Wednesday he was leaving Washington after two days of talks with Reagan Administration officials “reassured about the nature and the scope of the support and understanding” for Israel’s problems.
But Peres stressed, at a press conference before leaving for New York, that while most of the talks centered around Israel’s economic problems, the real issue was how a democracy in a non-democratic region could maintain its political and military strength.
“I did not come to Washington in order to raise money so that we shall be able to mcintain the standard of life in Israel, ” he said. “We shall do it ourselves.”
NEEDS OF LSRAEL’S ARMY
Peres explained that lsrael needs United States help in maintaining the present size of its army, both in personnel and weaponry, as well as replacing old weapons with a new generation of armaments. He noted that lsrael pays for 70 percent of its defense and the remaining 30 percent comes from the United States in aid to buy military hardware.
The Premier said that while lsrael has received large-scale United States aid, the value of the dollar has decreased because of inflation, while the price of weaponry has gone up greatly.
As an example, he said that, in 1974 when largescale U.S. aid began, lsrael had U.S. Phantom iets which cost $4 million each. The U.S. F-15s and F-16s lsrael is now buying to replace the Phantoms cost about $40 million per plane.
EXPRESSES GRATITUDE FOR U.S. AID
Peres expressed gratitude that the United States has agreed to provide lsrael immediately with $1.2 billion of the $2.6 billion in grants it is receiving in the 1985 fiscal year, which began October 1. He said this would help lsrael meet its immediate needs.
Peres also expressed the gratitude of lsrael for support in Congress. He said the 96-0 vote in the Senate and the 436-6 vote in the House to create a Free Trade Area between lsrael and the United States was “an outstanding phenomenon” which “warms our hearts.”
The joint economic development group between lsrael and the United States, announced by President Reagan after his two-hour meeting with Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir Tuesday, is designed to help the new unity govemment restructure lsrael’s economy, Peres explained. Peres said his govermment wants to change lsrael’s economy from dependence on its old industries to an information economy which exports science and technology.
The govemment hopes to increase exports from the present $11 billion a year to $19 billion, the Premier said. He said this would end the balance of trade deficit and help make lsrael self-sufficient and thus need less aid from the United States. He said lsrael wants to increase productivity and exports, particularly exports to the United States.
Peres, who, after his meeting with Reagan Tuesday,called the President “a true friend of lsrael, stressed that he had come to the United States because of “lsrael’s needs” and not because of anything connected with the U.S. Presidential election. “l feel very strongly that lsrael is not a partisan issue in American life,” he said.
Noting that he was scheduled to meet former Vice President Walter Mondale in New York Wednesday afternoon, Peres said that he has known Mondale for many years and has had “good relations” with him. Asked if the Democratic Presidential candidate was also a true friend of lsrael, Peres said “What’s wrong with having many friends?”
SAYS U.S., LSRAEL SEE ‘EYE TO EYE’ ON LEBANON
Peres contended that in his meeting with Reagan and five meetings with Secretary of State George Shulz he found the United States and lsrael see “eye to eye” on Lebanon. He said that while lsrael plans to withdraw from Lebanon, a process he said wuld take six to nine months, he would not comment on whether lsrael would do so unilaterally without a serious commitment not to cross the red line, where its troops are now deployed, or to keep the Palestinian terrorists from doing so.
“We do not look for any trade-off on the Syrian side,” Peres said. “lt is up to the Syrians to decide if they want to confront every morning our army deployed alongside their line … 16-17 miles from the outskirts of Damascus.”
Peres said said the United Nations lnterim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) could replace the lsraeli troops in the areas from which lsrael withdraws. But he made clear again that lsrael wants the troops commanded by Brig. Gen. Antoine Lahad to remain along the border to patrol the areas from where Katyusha rockets could hit northern lsrael.
Peres said Lahad, the successor to the late Saad Haddad, represents the “real desire of the Lebanese people who reside in southern Lebanon. I think they are as much interested in keeping southern Lebanon peaceful as we are.”
REAGAN PLAN ‘IS NOT OPERATIONAL’
Peres said that while Reagan renewed his commitment to his September 1, 1982 peace initiative, the Israelis were not asked yesterday to support it. “We know the initiative is in existence,” the Premier said. “But for the time being, it is not operational.
Peres stressed that “problem is not so much the nature of the plan but the necessity for a serious partner. Finding the partner must precede to agreeing about a plan.”
He said discussions were held with the Administration on renewing the peace process with Egypt and Jordan. “We have not given up hope,” he said. He said he believed in an American expression, “quitters are not winners and winners are not quitters, ” adding that by winning, he means “winning a durable peace in the Middle East.”
Peres said he “welcomes” the meeting between King Hussein of Jordan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. He noted it broke the Arab boycott against Egypt after it signed a peace treaty with Israel, even though it still maintains peace with Israel and Israel has an Embassy in Cairo.
Peres noted that in his talks with the Administration, he did not voice any objections to United States arms sales to Egypt because Egypt is at peace with Israel. “The problem really is not arms but policies,” he explained.
“If any Arab country is at peace with Israel then the supply of arms is not the real problem. But if you supply arms to a country that maintains a state of belligerency with Israel, the arms is then a support of belligerency instead of being a compensation for a peaceful process,” Peres maintained.
Asked about extremists in Israel, such as Rabbi Meir Kahane, and the Jewish terrorist group whose members are now on trial, Peres noted that every country has such problems. “You do have the Ku Klux Klan, ” he said. He said the new unity government ensures that the mainstream of the country rejects extremism.