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State Department Stresses That There is ‘definitely’ No Change in U.S. Policy Toward Israel

February 12, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The State Department stressed today that “there definitely has not been” any change in U.S. policy toward Israel. “We remain committed to Israel’s security and well being, as well as maintaining the best possible relations with other states in the Middle East,” Department spokesman Dean Fischer said.

Fischer made his statement after saying he would not comment on reports that a senior official travelling with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in the Middle East said the U.S. wanted to establish a more balanced relationship with Israel and the more moderate Arab states.

The official was reported as saying that this new relationship was reflected in the joint military planning group Weinberger set up with Saudi Arabia while visiting there this week and his efforts to establish a similar group in talks in Oman. The official also pointed to this balance in connection with Weinberger’s discussions in Jordan yesterday about the possibility of selling that country U.S. Hawk anti-aircraft missiles and possibly F-16 jet fighters.


(Political sources in Jerusalem said today that Israel intends to make known to the U.S. its strong opposition to the increased sale of weapons to Arab countries, notably Jordan and Saudi Arabia because of their effect on the balance of military power in the region and on the peace process.

(Israel was also reported to be seeking clarification from the U.S. of the remarks attributed to a senior official travelling with Weinberger. Some media reports quoted the official as saying the U.S. intends to take a “tougher line” toward Israel. The description “senior official” was used by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to cover remarks he did not want attributed to himself. The Israelis want to find out if the “senior official” in this case was in fact Weinberger.)


Weinberger was reportedly trying to get Jordan to drop its agreement to purchase Soviet anti-aircraft missiles. Fischer said today that the Defense Secretary was not negotiating with the Jordanians on arms sales but only exploring the possibility. He denied there were any differences between Weinberger and Secretary of State Alexander Haig on this issue and stressed that Haig had been “apprised” of what Weinberger was trying to accomplish on his Middle East trip.

With respect to the sale of Hawk missiles and F-16s to Jordan, Fischer stressed that no decisions have been made since there would have to be consultations with Congress first. He noted that the U.S. had supplied “air defense aircraft” to Jordan in the past and knew that Jordan would eventually need to replace them, possibly with the newer, more advanced F-16s.

He said the U.S. was also aware of Jordan’s need for air defense missiles. When King Hussein visited Washington last fall, it was announced that Jordan had agreed to buy 20 mobile batteries containing 320 SA-8 missiles from the Soviet Union.

Jordan originally turned down an offer to buy Hawk missiles from the U.S. during the Carter Administration after Congress stipulated that the missiles had to be stationary so that they would not endanger Israel. Weinberger, in Amman, reportedly said that restriction was responsible for Jordan turning to the Soviet Union.


Fischer said today that U.S. special envoy Philip Habib would be at the State Department next week for consultations that would determine whether he will return to the Middle East to resume his efforts to calm the tense situation in Lebanon. State Department sources said the U.S. has been in contact with Israel, Syria and Lebanon over what is believed to be an increasingly tense situation in the area.

There have been reports that Israel plans to invade south Lebanon to destroy Palestinian terrorist formations there. But Fischer said today that “We have no evidence of any recent build-up” by Israeli forces along the Lebanese border. Haig had voiced concern last week over Soviet military supplies to the Palestinian forces in Lebanon. Fischer said the situation there is still very “sensitive” and that the U.S. is “watching it closely.”

On another matter, Fischer said the U.S. Ambassador in Syria, Robert Paganelli, was informed about an uprising in the central Syrian city of Hamma. The envoy was told that elements of the fundamentalist Moslem Brotherhood were involved and that government forces have sealed off part of the city to protect civilians while they try to put down the uprising. The Ambassador was told that the “situation in the rest of the country is calm.”

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