WASHINGTON (Jun. 19)
President Reagan said last night that the reason the United States is singled out as a target for terrorism is due in part to its strong ties with Israel.
“We seem to be a target also, I’m quite sure, because of our friendship and support of Israel,” Reagan said in response to a question during a nationally televised news conference from the East Room of the White House.
“So it just seems to be that there is anti-American-ism that is rampant there on the part of those who don’t want peace with Israel and who have consistently over the years, committed terrorist acts against the Israelis,” the President added.
NO PRESSURE ON ISRAEL
Reagan, in a statement at the outset of the news conference, dominated by the current hostage crisis in Beirut, indicated that he would not pressure Israel into making concession with the hijackers who are demanding that Israel release some 700 Shiite Moslems it now holds in return for the release of some 40 Americans held in Beirut.
“Let me further make it plain to the assassins in Beirut and their accomplices wherever they may be that America will never make concessions to terrorists … Nor will we ask nor pressure any other government to do so” the President said, in an obvious reference to Israel.
The President was asked why the U.S. does not “lean on Israel” in order that the Israelis expedite the release of the 700 Shiite detainees which Israel has already said it was intending to soon release.
LINKAGE MAKES FREEING SHIITES DIFFICULT
According to Reagan, “the linkage has been created that makes it impossible for them and for us. There was no question” that Israel was going to release the Shiites it now holds, he said, adding that “it has now been tied to where such a movement would be in effect giving in to the terrorists. And then, as I say, who is safe?”
“That’s all terrorists have to know is that they can succeed and get what they want. It’s the same as the customs in single kidnapping crimes in our country here, in which we know that if possible you try to resolve the situation without paying the ransom, ” Reagan said.
Nevertheless, the President did say that he thought the Israelis were in violation of international law when they took the Shiite Moslems from Lebanon into Israel. “It’s my understanding,” the President said, “That taking them (the Shiites) across the border from their own country and into another country is a violation of the Geneva accords.”
Reagan was also asked whether he had received “any assurances” from Israel that they would release the Shiite detainees if the hostages were released. The President said, “we have not dealt with them on that. As I say, we have not interfered in any way with them in what they’re doing.” On efforts to revive Middle East peace efforts, the President praised King Hussein of Jordan in seeking a negotiating process, adding, “I have to commend him for his courage and willingness to do what he is doing in trying to bring about direct negotiations between the Arab states and Israel and the Palestinians to try and get a peace — a lasting peace — in the Middle East. So we are doing everything we can also to be of help to him.”