NEW YORK (Dec. 11)
U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, addressing more than 700 lawyers here Wednesday night, stressed that Israel and the United States share the same interests and long term objectives which led to their collaboration in the sale of arms to Iran.
“Israel has taken a long view in looking at this and has taken with us a strategic approach of which Iran is a very important piece,” Meese said at the Proskauer Award Dinner of the UJA-Federation Lawyers Division which seeks to raise $7 million for the 1987 campaign.
“We share with Israel the same objective and interests as far as that region of the world is concerned,” Meese said. He said the Reagan Administration’s objective was “to influence Iran to rejoin the family of responsible nations, rather than plunge into an abyss and a continuation of the conduct we have seen in the past.”
Meese added, “because we share the same interests, this Administration is committed irrevocably to the safety and security of Israel. Whatever steps we take in that region will always have in mind the impact of those steps upon that nation.”
The Attorney General maintained that had the arms sales been completed they would have amounted to only “one-tenth of one percent of the arms that are currently being supplied to Iran by other countries” and that Iranian contacts had offered to work for the release of American hostages held in Lebanon.
DEFENDS REAGAN’S HANDLING OF THE CRISIS
Meese strongly defended President Reagan’s handling of the crisis precipitated by the arms sales and the disclosure that proceeds from it were diverted to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. “This was not an issue that could be allowed to fester, be concealed, appear to the American public that it was covered up. The President has taken quick, positive firm steps to deal with this problem,” he said.
At a press conference following his speech, Meese referred to Israel’s own investigation into the affair. “Israel is as determined as we are to get the facts out and to acknowledge exactly what their role is,” he said.
More than $4 million was pledged at the Award Dinner, a record for that event according to Stephen Axinn, chairman of the Lawyers Division. Mendes Hershman received the Proskauer Award, named in honor of the late Judge Joseph Proskauer who helped open the doors for Jews in the legal profession in New York.