Friends of Israel Unlikely to Miss Outgoing Defense Secretary
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Friends of Israel Unlikely to Miss Outgoing Defense Secretary

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The expected resignation of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger would remove from President Reagan’s Cabinet the leading opponent of the expanding alliance between the United States and Israel over the last seven years.

While maintaining that he is not anti-Israel, Weinberger has continually argued that the United States must not be seen as neglecting its Arab friends in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia and Jordan, in favor of Israel.

The 70-year-old defense secretary has been the leading advocate in the Reagan administration for arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and is believed responsible for some of the harsh actions the administration has taken against Israel during the last seven years.

After Jonathan Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy, was arrested for spying for Israel, Weinberger refused to go along with a State Department effort to ensure that the affair would not harm long-term U.S.-Israel relations.

Weinberger also opposed the administration’s efforts for strategic cooperation with Israel and sought to prevent Israel from building the Lavi jet fighter from its inception.


Some of his most controversial acts came when the U.S. Marines were sent to Beirut in 1983. Weinberger first refused any direct liaison between the Marines and Israeli troops adjacent to them, which resulted in at least one confrontation between the two sides.

When the Marine barracks were blown up on Oct. 23, 1983, the Pentagon rejected an offer by Israel to have the wounded flown to an Israeli hospital. Weinberger maintained that this was a decision by the commander at the scene, based on established practices. Later, the United States and Israel entered into an agreement to provide such medical treatment.

Weinberger directly confronted the perception that he is anti-Israel in a speech to the American Jewish Committee in New York on May 13, 1983 in which he stressed that “this is simply not true.”

“I am a strong supporter of Israel, and an admiring witness to the democracy they have built and preserved under the most trying conditions,” he said.


But, he added, even if he was not an “admirer” of Israel, “as secretary of defense, I would still be a strong supporter of Israel,” because, in addition to the emotional ties between the two countries, “it is clear that we in the United States have an important stake in Israel’s security.”

Weinberger is expected to be succeeded as secretary of defense by Frank Carlucci, now Reagan’s national security adviser. Carlucci is considered close to Weinberger, having served under him in the Nixon administration and then as deputy secretary of defense from 1981 to 1983.

Carlucci is believed to have proposed the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia in 1981 and had pushed for arm sales to the Saudis when he was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Carter administration.

However, it is Carlucci who is credited with the compromise worked out with Senate leaders to remove Maverick anti-tank missiles from a $1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Carlucci is expected to be replaced by his deputy, Army Lt. Colin Powell. He would be the first black to be national security adviser.

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