JERUSALEM (Dec. 9)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir, defending Israel’s role in the U.S. arms shipments to Iran, said Tuesday that “if there had not been any leaks” Israeli soldiers held prisoner in Lebanon would have been released as part of the deal.
Shamir, addressing a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction, said that because the arms deal “exploded” into worldwide attention, the soldiers were not freed. He gave no details but he may have been referring to two Israel Defense Force soldiers captured last February in the south Lebanon security zone. They are believed to be in the hands of Hezbullah, the pro-Iran Shiite extremist group.
Shamir justified Israel’s assistance to the U. S. in its attempts to trade arms for hostages. “We could have lived on Olympus, detached, neutral and indifferent. But we must live in the area, buy friends, work with friends and cooperate with them when it serves the interests of Israel,” he said.
Israel’s conscience is entirely clear in this matter, Shamir said, noting that had the soldiers been released “everyone would have praised” the exchange. As it is, he said, he was not worried about Israel’s regard in the U.S. He said he has met with several influential “people who came from the U.S.” in recent days and all of them “told us Israel is not being attacked and not being accused in this affair.” Many in the U.S. appreciate Israel’s role, Shamir said.
At a meeting Tuesday with two visiting U.S. Senators, Carl Levin of Michigan and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, both Democrats, Shamir gave them a verbal message for King Husseing of Jordan asking him to enter immediately into peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions. He told the American lawmakers that the recent unrest in the West Bank should not affect the desire for peace.