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Arens Says Settlements Not Raised in Meetings with Quayle and Cheney

Neither Vice President Dan Quayle nor Defense Secretary Dick Cheney apparently raised the touchy issue of Israeli settlement activity in the administered territories when they met separately here Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens.

“I haven’t received any criticism since I got here,” Arens said outside the Pentagon when asked whether either Quayle or Cheney had criticized Israeli settlement policy.

Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, warned in radio interviews last weekend that Israel could soon be forced by the administration to choose between continuing to expand the settlements and receiving U.S. aid for immigrant absorption.

Israel is planning to ask the United States early this fall to provide guarantees for $10 billion of commercial loans which it would use to help resettle immigrants from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

Shoval told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Monday that U.S. officials had been sending “signals” to American Jewish groups that the guarantees could be linked to limits on Israeli settlement activity.

But Arens said that in his meetings with Quayle and Cheney, “we didn’t get really into too much detail” on the prospect of such a linkage. “My own view is that these are two incommensurate parameters,” he said.

“There’s really no connection at all between the question of whether Jews can or cannot live in Judea or in Samaria and whether the million Russian Jews who are leaving the Soviet Union after 70 years of persecution and coming to Israel should be helped,” he said.

CONCERN ABOUT SYRIAN BUILDUP

Arens declined to say what specifically was discussed in the White House and Pentagon meetings. All he would say was that Cheney and he “dealt with the whole gamut of items on the Israeli-U.S. strategic relationship” and that “Vice President Quayle treated me royally.”

A spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy later said that Arens raised two main issues in his talks with Cheney. He expressed concern about reports of a Syrian military buildup in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War and he asked the United States to continue investing in Israel’s weapons research and development programs.

Arens said such investments are the only way that Israel can maintain its qualitative military edge in the Middle East, since the wealthy Arab states can buy nearly unlimited amounts of sophisticated military hardware.

During his visit here Tuesday and Wednesday, Arens was to meet with Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairmen respectively of the Senate and House Armed Services committees; and Sens, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Robert Kasten (R-Wis.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) from the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid.

An Israeli Embassy official who attended Arens’ meetings with Nunn and Inouye said they amounted to “nothing earthshaking.”

Arens also was scheduled to meet with Rep. Dante Fascell (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

He was to fly to New York Wednesday afternoon to address the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and was expected to return to Israel either Wednesday night or Thursday.

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