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Task of New Israeli Envoy Will Be to Find out Whether the U.S. is Moving Away from Israel

February 16, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Moshe Arens, Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States, arrived here yesterday faced with the task of finding out whether the United States is moving away from Israel and toward the “moderate” Arab states.

The 56-year-old Arens will officially present his credentials to President Reagan at the White House tomorrow. However, since these events are usually just ceremonial it is doubtful whether the new envoy will have a chance to get a full discussion on the problem with the President. This will come when he meets with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, probably later this week.

The former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee makes his debut as a diplomat at a time when Israelis are confused as to what is U.S. policy toward the Middle East. The confusion has come from conflicting statements during the trips abroad by Haig and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger from which both returned Saturday night.

A senior official traveling with Weinberger was quoted twice, the latest on Saturday, as saying the U.S. wanted to “redirect” its policy from Israel toward the moderate Arab states. The State Department last week and Haig yesterday denied there was any change in U.S. policy toward Israel.

Most specifically, Arens’ first task will be to press Israel’s strong objections to reports that Weinberger wants to sell Jordan F-16 fighters and mobile missiles. Congress would have to approve such a sale and it is expected to be as controversial as was the battle last year over the sale of AWACS reconnaissance planes and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia.


In an appearance on ABC-TV’s “This Week With David Brinkley” yesterday, Haig said, “Our policy toward Israel has not, and I do not contemplate that it will, change in the period ahead.” He noted that this is the “stated policy of President Reagan” who is the “ultimate authority.” Haig said he believed that the use of the term “redirect” was “incorrect” and blamed what he called misinterpretation of what the senior official with Weinberger said to the news media.

Haid denied there was any conflict with Weinberger and said that before they left on their respective trips, they had agreed on what would be said on foreign policy issues and Weinberger has been “very close to those agreements.”

Haig stressed that although the U.S. remains committed to Israel it does not mean that the U.S. does not want to have “good relationships with moderate Arab states.” He said that is what Weinberger’s recent trip to the Middle East “was about.”

Both Weinberger and Haig pushed American military commitment during their trips. Weinberger obtained an agreement for a joint military planning group in Saudi Arabia and sought a similar group in Oman. Haig pressed for this type of agreement while in Morocco last week.

However, Weinberger was seen here by observers as going further than the State Department would have liked. This has increased the impression that within the Reagan Administration Haig is more sympathetic toward concerns of Israel than Weinberger who is viewed in some quarters as even being hostile toward the Jewish State.

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