WASHINGTON (Jan. 28)
Israel Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin stressed today that Israel’s decision to leave Lebanon was a “unilateral” one and was not tied to what Syria does.
“If Syria would like to continue to stay in Lebanon let them enjoy it,” Rabin said after a two-hour meeting with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger at the Pentagon. “I believe that whoever sets his foot in the mud of Lebanon sticks there.”
Rabin said he discussed all Mideast issues with Weinberger, who he called “sympathetic” and “a friend to Israel.” Later, Rabin met for two hours with Secretary of State George Shultz. While here, too, the entire gamut of Mideast problems were discussed, Rabin said they concentrated on economic issues.
Rabin said he described the austerity measures taken by Israel. He said he expected an increase in military aid to Israel but would not discuss any figures.
Israel has reportedly asked for $2.1 billion in military assistance for the 1986 fiscal year, a $700 million increase above the current level. However the Administration is reportedly ready to propose $1.9 billion.
In addition, Israel has asked for $1.9 billion in economic aid for 1986 plus an emergency appropriation of $800 million in addition to the $1.2 million it is receiving this year. The Administration has so far been reluctant to approve any increase in economic aid, although there are indications it might approve the emergency appropriation if the U.S. is satisfied with the progress of Israel’s austerity program.
Rabin said he and Shultz also discussed the plight of Soviet Jewry.
Rabin was also scheduled to meet today with Robert McFarlane, National Security Adviser, and tomorrow with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is scheduled to meet President Reagan at the White House Wednesday morning.
After leaving the Pentagon, where he had received upon arrival full military honors, Rabin went to Arlington National Cemetery where he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.