JERUSALEM (Mar. 19)
Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, defending the Cabinet’s decision to phase out Israel’s military relationship with South Africa in the Knesset Thursday, appeared to indicate that the government was acting out of concern for American views.
The new policy (see separate story) came under attack from left-and rightwing Knesset members. Likud’s Benny Shalita said the government’s decision was hasty and amounted to capitulation to liberals in Israel and the West.
Yair Tzaban of Mapam and Yossi Sarid of the Citizens Rights Movement (CRM) charged, on the other hand, that the government’s action was too little and too late. They warned that U.S. aid to Israel would be jeopardized when the full extent of Israel’s arms deals with South Africa becomes known and that Israel would “pay dearly” for its past policies when the apartheid regime is ultimately overthrown.
Geula Cohen of the Tehiya party said that while she supported the government’s decision, it looked too much like surrender to American pressure, which she opposed in principle. According to Cohen, this could lead to pressure on other issues, such as the Palestinian problem.
PERES RESPONDS TO CRITICS
Peres dismissed as “a bare-faced lie” the claim by Communist MK Meir Wilner of nuclear cooperation between Israel and South Africa.
To Tzaban and Sarid, he said “your fine words will not protect us against embargoes, nor maintain our security.” He added that it was hypocritical to portray Israel as South Africa’s main arms supplier. “Is it Israel that supplies South Africa with Mirage fighters. Centurion tanks or artillery?” he asked, referring to a French combat plane and a British tank.
Responding to Cohen, Peres said “All your talk about keeping a straight back and standing up to the Americans is nonsense. As long as the USSR continues to pour arms into the Arab countries, Israel will need another power to supply her with arms.”
Israel, he said, must take American views into account because no other nation shows more consideration for Israel.