WASHINGTON (Nov. 4)
A U.S. Agency for International Development team is expected in Israel soon to begin implementing the U.S. agreement to guarantee $400 million in loans to build housing for Soviet immigrants.
Secretary of State James Baker on Friday told Israel’s new ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, that he had instructed AID to go ahead with the mission.
The AID team will evaluate Israel’s plans for using the $400 million before issuing the guarantee document, which allows Israel to seek the loans from an American bank.
There had been reports last week that Baker had delayed sending the AID mission because of continued concern about the settlement of Soviet Jews in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Baker had accepted Israel’s assurances that none of the $400 million would be used for settling Soviet Jews in areas not under Israel’s control before 1967. But he reportedly wanted greater assurances about Israel’s overall housing plans beyond the Israeli government’s promise that Soviet Jews are not being directed to the territories.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler repeated Friday that the delay in sending the AID team was due only to the need to work out details.
Shoval, who has not yet presented his credentials to President Bush, met with Baker for an hour Friday, just one day before the secretary left for visits to Turkey, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
During his one-week trip, Baker also is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the Chinese foreign minister in Cairo and to go to Moscow for meetings Thursday with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
Shoval said his meeting with Baker demonstrated that the basic understanding between the United States and Israel continues, despite differences of opinion on some issues.
Disagreement between friends does not break an alliance, the ambassador said. The close ties are as strong as ever and can withstand disagreement.
Shoval told reporters he was outraged at the one-sided resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council in the aftermath of the Oct. 8 riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He said those who continue to bring the issue up before the Security Council are not looking for facts but want to divert attention from Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
Since Israel gained control of the Old City in 1967, it has not infringed on the rights of Moslems to worship on the Temple Mount, Shoval stressed. He said Israeli law prohibits Jews from praying on the Temple Mount and that this has always been upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court.