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Arens Sees a Testing Time Ahead in U.s.-israel Relations

February 28, 1983
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Defense Minister-designate Moshe Arens attended his first Cabinet session today and gave what Cabinet sources described later as a sober but not pessimistic analysis of Israel’s relations with Washington.

Arens will be formally sworn into his new post by the Knesset this week. He briefed the Cabinet today, however, as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. He predicted a testing time ahead in Israel-U.S. relations but said he detected an increasing appreciation of Israel’s role and position in the Western world.

According to Arens, while President Reagan’s Middle East proposals, enunciated last September 1, remains Administration policy, there are second thoughts in some quarters as to the benefits accruing to Washington from the proposals. He also said he was very much encouraged by a recent Gallup Poll which showed that Israel has recouped much of the public support it had lost in the U.S. as a result of its invasion of Lebanon last year.

Arens reportedly told the Cabinet that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is the key Administration official with close ties to the Arab world and that tended to mould his thinking in a way inimical to Israel. He said Secretary of State George Shultz was beginning to realize that the Israeli-Arab conflict was not as cut and dried as some Administration circles may have thought.


Arens spent most of the day preparing to assume his new post. He paid his first visit to the Defense Ministry where he was greeted with full military honors.

He promised to run the Defense Ministry and conduct this contacts with the army General Staff as a “team man” rather than a “prima donna.”

Arens held his first working session with Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan this evening. One of his first jobs will be to find replacements for the senior officers dismissed or shifted in compliance with the recommendations of the commission of inquiry into the Beirut refugee camps massacre, and a replacement for Eitan who retires in April.


Arens returned to Israel from Washington Friday. He refused to answer most questions by reporters about U.S.-Israeli relations except to say that Israel, first and foremost, must look after its own interests, one of which was maintaining as good relations with the U.S. as possible. He also said that he assumed former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon who he is replacing still has a great deal to contribute in the area of defense.

Arens said a headline in The Los Angeles Times a week ago quoting him as saying that Israel might consider a preemptive strike against Syria was misleading although the Times’ story itself was “reasonably correct. ” He said he had told the newspaper, in reply to a question, that “if Israel were ever to find itself in mortal danger, as has been the case in the past, we would, of course, consider taking the necessary measures.”

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