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Weinberger Accuses Israel of Scuttling Mideast Peace

July 23, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger charged today that Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor June 7 and its bombing of Beirut last Friday have set back American peace efforts in Lebanon.

Interviewed on ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” program, Weinberger said that special U.S. envoy Philip Habib “came very close to securing a very reasonable set of peace terms with respect to the removal of the missiles by Syria (from Lebanon) just about the time the Iraqi reactor was bombed” June 7. At that time, Weinberger continued, Habib “was starting to make very good progress, assisted by Saudi Arabia and other countries of the moderate Arab nations with respect to the situation again, and then Beirut was bombed. So, each of these things has set the whole course of security and peace back quite a ways.”

Weinberger’s statement, one of the strongest by a Reagan Administration official regarding Israel’s policy toward Lebanon, also termed Premier Menachem Begin’s policy as one that “cannot really be described as moderate at this point,” and justified President Reagan’s decision to put off indefinitely delivery of 10 F-16 fighter planes to Israel.

“One of the instruments of violence is, of course, the planes,” the Secretary of Defense said. “The President’s feeling was that we simply did not want to add anything to that already rather explosive situation.” Weinberger warned that the escalation of hostilities across the Lebanon-Israel border could cause tremendous damage. He added: “I would very much hope that the logic of the situation would appeal to everybody and we would get a cease-fire quickly.

Begin also came under fire from Deputy Secretary of State William Clark. He told reporters here that the Reagan Administration felt “disappointment and some embarrassment” when Begin ordered the air raid on Beirut shortly after consultations with State Department Counsellor Robert McFarlane. Clark said that Begin was making it difficult for the Administration to aid Israel.

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