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Haig: No Link Between Israel’s Air Raid on Beirut and U.S. Decision to Delay F-16s Delivery

July 20, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State Alexander Haig reiterated the Reagan Administration’s position today that there is no link between Israel’s air raid on Beirut Friday and the U.S. decision to delay the resumption of deliveries of F-16 warplanes to Israel.

It “serves no useful purpose to link” the two issues, Haig said in reply to questions on the ABC-TV “Issues and Answers” program. At the same time, he acknowledged that the decision does have an effect on U.S. efforts to be a “responsible moderating influence” in the Middle East.

He noted that although President Reagan had been expected to make a decision on Friday, it was decided to use the extra time between when the planes left the factory in Texas that day and when they are due to leave from a New Hampshire air base for Israel this Tuesday, the scheduled delivery date, in order to complete the Administration’s review of whether Israel violated its arms agreement with the U.S. when it bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor last June 7.

Haig said, however, that the President will have a decision by Tuesday. He and Reagan leave for Ottawa today for a Western nations’ economic summit conference there tomorrow and Tuesday.

Haig denied that when State Department Counsellor Robert McFarlane was in Jerusalem last week he reached an “understanding” with Israel on the use of American-supplied weapons. “We want them (Israel) to consider our interests in these matters as well as their own,” he said.


A leading member of the Senate, Joseph Biden (D. Del.), said last week that the entire McFarlane mission was “useless.” He said the State Department official made the trip because the Administration was in a “bind” because it stopped delivery of the F-16s and had to find a way to resume them without arousing the wrath of the Arab countries. He contended that the planes should never have been embargoed.

Biden said that McFarlane denied to him that there was any link between resuming the F-16 deliveries and Israel’s opposition to the Administration’s proposed sale of AWACS reconnaissance aircraft and other equipment to Saudi Arabia. He said the Administration has delayed submitting the AWACS package because of opposition in the Senate and is seeking some type of “gimmick” claiming that the AWACS would be under U.S., not Saudi control. Biden said as soon as the AWACS proposal goes to Congress, he will submit a resolution to reject it.


During his TV interview today, Haig said that both Israel and the U.S. had a “communality of interests” in seeking a wider peace in the Mideast. But, he added, the U.S. in selling weapons to Israel never visualized” that Israel could not use them for “legitimate self-defense.” He acknowledged that there were often disagreements over what constituted self-defense.

Haig stressed that when the U.S. condemned Israel for its raid on Iraq it did not “make a judgement” as to whether Israel acted in self-defense as it claimed. The U.S. argument at the time, he said, was that Israel had not exhausted all “available diplomatic” means.

Haig seemed to express optimism that the present situation in Lebanon would be resolved. He noted that U.S. special envoy Philip Habib is presently in Israel attempting to moderate the situation. He said Habib had achieved success in moderating the earlier crisis over Syria’s SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles in Lebanon.

Haig rejected suggestions that the U.S. decision on the F-16s was based on “domestic political influences.” He said the policies of the Reagan Administration are based principally on seeking “an ultimate peaceful solution” in the Middle East.


In a separate session of “Issues and Answers,” West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, interviewed in Ottawa, said he believed the increased violence in Lebanon “is proof of the necessity to broaden the Camp David process.” He said this applied to both the issues and the participants.

Schmidt said that in order to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, the negotiations cannot be left just to Israel and Egypt but should include other Arab states, such as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as well as the Palestinians. Schmidt refused to comment when asked what affect a U.S. decision to resume delivery of F-16s to Israel would have on the situation.

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