JERUSALEM (Nov. 23)
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has agreed to brief the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Monday on Israel’s policy toward the Iran-Iraq war.
The government has come under mounting pressure on that subject as criticism grew at home and abroad over the Reagan Administration’s clandestine arms shipments to Iran in which Israel allegedly played the role of middleman. Peres’ briefing, demanded by Committee chairman Abba Eban, is expected to focus on the period when he was Prime Minister and, in that capacity, responsible for any Israeli arms transfers to Iran.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who shares responsibility for arms shipments, insists Israel sent nothing to Iran without clear-cut American approval. Premier Yitzhak Shamir has up to now refused to confirm or deny arms shipments by Israel.
The leftist opposition party Mapam introduced a non-confidence motion in the Knesset Sunday on the issue. It will be debated next week.
IMPLIED CRITICISM OF THE GOVERNMENT
Eban said Sunday that his Committee would not delve into “whether or when a particular consignment left” Israel but would examine the basic policy toward Iran. He implied criticism of the government for failing to brief the Knesset Committee earlier.
He noted that the Committee has within it small and discreet subcommittees which could be relied on not to divulge sensitive secrets. “Anyway, this matter must be the least secret subject in the world these days,” Eban said.
Observers here said Israeli policymakers are most concerned about possible revelations that Israeli arms shipments to Iran may have been far more massive than what the Reagan Administration called for as part of a U.S.-Iranian deal.
Meanwhile, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan sharply criticized the United States Sunday for supplying arms to Iran. Both countries strongly favor Iraq in the Persian Gulf war. Egypt supplies Iraq with much of its military hardware. Jordan, through its Red Sea port of Aqaba, furnishes the key supply route for materiel destined for Iraq.