WASHINGTON (May. 21)
Thomas Dine, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Sunday that although events the past year have “put Israel in a negative light,” AIPAC made significant gains.
“We may have just had the worst twelve months on record in terms of publicity, but we had one of the best years on record in terms of concrete legislation, in the strategic relationships between our country and Israel, and in the gains scored by our cause in the results of the 1986 election,” said Dine, addressing AIPAC’s 28th annual policy conference.
Israeli sale of goods and services in the Department of Defense rose from $9 million in 1983 to $205 million in 1986, Dine said.
A breakthrough was recently scored in plans for the U.S. to co-finance Israel’s development of an anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) which offers hope of protection from surface-to-surface missiles carrying chemicals aimed at Israel.
ROLE OF STATE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYES CITED
Dine singled out President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz for their commitment to Israel, but said there are permanent employes in the State and Defense Departments who “think that U.S.-Israel relations are too close, and “that it is in the U.S. interest to move away from Israel to curry favor with the Arabs.”
“If the people at the top could personally control and oversee all aspects of our policy toward Israel and its regions, the result would be more pro-Israel than we already have,” said Dine. “The problem is certainly not at the top, but further down among those who have ensconced themselves as a permanent government to pursue a policy of their own according to their theory of the American national interest.”
Dine praised members of Congress for urging Japan and India to end their compliance with Arab boycott of Israel. He said members of the Black Caucus and Jewish Delegation met to deal with Israeli sale of arms to South Africa and “not one amendment was offered to punish Israel by cutting aid.” Refuting reports that the American public is critical of Israel, Dine cited recent polls taken by Harris and Roper organizations indicating that Israel’s rating as an ally is up slightly and its “unfriendliness rating” is down 25 percent from the previous year. Support for Israel over the Arabs is six to one in the Roper poll and seven to one in the Harris poll.
“Overall, there is hardly a shred of evidence in the polls for the theory that support for Israel among the American people has eroded,” Dine said.
AIPAC’s upcoming agenda will include efforts for passage of the foreign aid bill of $3 billion to Israel and providing no-cost leasing of defense materials. He also said AIPAC would oppose the Administration’s plan to sell F-15 fighters to Saudi Arabia.
On the subject of an international peace conference, Dine said he favors direct negotiations with Jordan. “Some people are offended by the raucous nature of the Israeli debate. I am not. Dictatorships make nice, neat little decisions in secret, outside the public eye. Democracies make their decisions in public, accepting that this included the risks of allowing all to see that there is not just one opinion in the country,” said Dine. “Israel will, in the end, do the right thing,” Dine said.