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Israel and the U.S. Clash over the Future Use of U.S. Weaponry by Israel’s Armed Forces

July 14, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel and the U.S. clashed today over the future use of U.S.-supplied weaponry by the Israel armed forces. Premier Menachem Begin conferred for more than three hours with State Department Counsellor Robert McFarlane and told reporters later that they had not reached agreement.

Begin said they would meet again later tonight in another effort to work out an accord “that may or may not be published” regarding use of American weapons. Begin conceded that the talks were “connected, directly indirectly,” with the continuing U.S. suspension of delivery to Israel of four F-16 warplanes that should have arrived here two weeks ago.

The suspension was imposed following Israel’s bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor — an action which Begin repeated today had been “the most supreme national self-defense.” (American arms supplies are legally conditional upon their being used for “self-defense,” and the differences between Jerusalem and Washington seem to be over the definitions of that key term.)


Begin said outright that Israel would not agree to American control of its military actions. Sovereign states could never agree to such a thing, he explained, nor indeed was McFarlane seeking U.S. “veto” powers over Israel’s use of the weaponry it supplies. Neither side would say explicitly what it was that McFarlane was seeking from the Prime Minister.

But Begin said he had learned from the State Department aide and from another top American source that President Reagan wants “to put (the suspension of the warplanes deliveries) behind him.” Washington needed some sort of understanding with Jerusalem “in order to be able to do this,” Begin said. He conceded “frankly” that the first three hours of discussion between himself, McFarlane and their aides had not produced the hoped-for formulation.


Earlier in the day Begin declared that it was “urgent” to achieve a peaceful solution of the Syrian missile crisis. He spoke to reporters as Philip Habib, President Reagan’s special envoy to the Mideast, left Israel for Saudi Arabia on his latest shuttle trip in connection with the missile crisis.

Begin said he made the point to Habib last night when the two men met for two hours in Jerusalem to discuss the crisis. “He understood very well the urgency of the situation,” Begin said, adding that the crisis, “and it is a genuine crisis,” has been going on for three months. The Premier stressed that he had “laid down no deadlines” but had merely underscored Israel’s concern, “Let us hope and pray that Habib’s efforts will lead to a peaceful solution,” Begin said.

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