Knesset Members Disgruntled over Government’s Delay in Dealing with Alleged Shipment of Arms to Iran

Members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee were briefed at a closed meeting by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres Monday on Israel’s alleged involvement in the Reagan Administration’s clandestine shipments of arms to Iran.

They were clearly disgruntled over the government’s long delay in filling them in on a subject that has been making headlines in the world media for weeks. But they did not divulge the content of Peres’ briefing, inasmuch as closed meetings of the committee are classified under the law.

More light may be shed on Israel’s policies toward the Iran-Iraq war and the hostile regime in Teheran when the Knesset plenum opens debate on those matters. The Cabinet Sunday withdrew its objections to a Knesset debate on the subject.

Yossi Sarid, of the leftist Citizens Rights Movement (CRM), told reporters after the session that it was ludicrous that the Knesset was kept in the dark while reports, true or false, were circulated in the world media of Israeli arms sales to Iran. He maintained that, in any event, such a policy was doomed to failure.

But Ehud Olmert, a Likud Herut MK, thought it was in Israel’s interest to help Iran to make sure Iraq did not win the six year-old Gulf War. According to Olmert, Iran, however hostile to Israel, was fighting an arch enemy of Israel. Nevertheless, he criticized the government for not briefing the Knesset until now on such a crucial matter.

Peres, who was Prime Minister at the time the alleged arms shipments were made, told reporters he gave the committee a detailed report, including the rationale for Israeli policy. He said there was no general policy to sell arms to Iran. He refused to comment when asked if Israel had made an exception at the behest of the U.S.

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