WASHINGTON (Jul. 24)
Rep. Tom Lantos (D. Calif.) warned today that if the Reagan Administration decides to sell sophisticated arms to Jordan and Saudi Arabia it will result in a “total fiasco” for the Administration’s current Mideast peace efforts.
Lantos issued the warning to Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, as Murphy was testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s European and Mideast subcommittee just a few hours before the Administration was to reveal the results of its study on the sale of arms to the Mideast before a closed joint session of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees.
Lantos noted that since the information was to be given in the closed meeting and would be classified, he would not be able to talk about it later. But he said he could speculate that the study will recommend the sale of sophisticated arms to Jordan and Saudi Arabia and that the Administration will present a proposal for such a sale after Labor Day.
Lantos said he thought it was a poor time now to go ahead with the peace process because of all the problems Israel has, particularly its economic crisis. But he said proposing an arms sale will be making matters worse by pushing “our overstrained democratic ally” into a renewed arms race.
Murphy replied that “we cannot pick the time to move in the peace process. ” He said in 1984 and in 1985 there were no signals in the Middle East that the countries wanted to proceed. But he said that after the visit to Washington by King Hussein of Jordan and the speech 19 days later by Israeli Premier Shimon Peres there was a signal from both sides that they wanted to move ahead.
U.S. NOT STEAMROLLING ISRAEL
“Israel has a full plate, Israel always has a plate full, ” Murphy said. But he noted that Israel is making progress on its economic problems as a result of measures taken by the Israeli Cabinet on July 1. “If fully and vigorously implemented, these new measures will represent an important step forward in Israel’s continuing effort to stabilize its economy and restore growth and prosperity,” Murphy said.
He said that the U.S. is “not trying to steamroll” Israel into the peace process but that the Israelis now see a chance to move toward peace on their eastern front. He said the Israelis are interested even though at the same time they may be “skeptical” or even “cynical.”
Murphy said that the U.S. has not yet decided on the arrangements for a meeting with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation or on the list of seven names submitted to it by Jordan. While he would not disclose any of the names, he added, “I think some of the names are acceptable. ” Murphy stressed again that the U.S. meeting with the Jordanian delegation which he would head, must lead to direct negotiations with Israel.
He again repeated that unlike Israel the U.S. accepts that members of the Palestine National Council are not necessarily members of the PLO. He said the U.S. has met with such PNC members both in the occupied territories and outside and while these individuals may support the PLO that does not mean they are members of the PLO. “Let’s not get hung up on a definition war, ” Murphy said.
However, he stressed the U.S. is consulting “very closely with Israel” although the U.S. will make its own approval of the Palestinian members of the joint delegation as well as to whether it enters into a meeting with the joint delegation. “We want it to go toward direct negotiations, ” Murphy reiterated.
Rep. Larry Smith (D. Fla.) stressed to Murphy that both houses of Congress have gone on record against any arms sales to Jordan and Saudi Arabia at this time. Murphy said that the study does not recommend any specific sale and any proposed sale would be discussed with Congress.
The Administration reportedly is considering selling Jordan either F-16 or F-20 fighter aircraft as well as improved mobile Hawk ground-to-air missile batteries, tanks and air transport planes. Saudi Arabia wants to buy 40 to 60 F-15s and additional equipment for the 60 F-15s it already has.