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U.S. Envoy Says U.s.-israel Relations Have Soured but Hopes They Will Improve This Spring

March 17, 1983
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U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis acknowledged that relations between Israel and the U.S. “have soured in the past year” and expressed hope that they will improve this spring. He said the talks between Secretary of State George Shultz and Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Washington this week augured well for improvement and a return to normal relations.

Lewis addressed the American delegation to the third World Conference on Soviet Jewry which opened here yesterday. He said the distrust and estrangement that developed during the year between the leaders of the U.S. and Israel were “tragic to the special relationship that existed between them.” He said the U.S. was particularly disappointed with Israel’s “inflexibility” over the West Bank.

But Lewis thought the war in Lebanon last summer was necessary and observed that few countries understood its importance. He noted, however, that it triggered a bitter internal debate in Israel and was the first war that generated so much antagonism, not only among civilians but within the Israeli army. “History will judge whether the sacrifices made by Israel in that war were worth it,” he said.

But the American envoy cautioned that the reality of the situation in Lebanon does not justify the hopes the Israelis pinned on the war. He said that although relations between Israel and Lebanon will not be full peace relations, south Lebanon will no longer be a threat to Israel’s security.

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