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June 15, 1984 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-06-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, June 15, 1984






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Israel staying neutral

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Continued from Page 4

Israeli involvement in the Gulf. The
only way the Americans might ever
consider any useful Israeli role there
would be if a massive U.S. military
operation actually got under way.
Only under such circumstances, U.S.
officials said, would possible Israeli
air cover, logistics support, emer-
gency medical asistance and other
military help be sought.
But President Ronald Reagan, in
the midst of a re-election campaign
and badly burned from an ill-fated
military adventure in Lebanon and
the prospects of unpopular military
activity in Central America, is not
about to use American armed force in
the Gulf. This is especially true in
advance of a public request from
Saudi Arabia and other friendly Gulf
states for help and without the com-
bined political, aerial and naval in-
volvement of the West European and
Japanese allies.

In the American-Israeli talks on
the Gulf which have occurred in re-
cent weeks, the basic focus has been
on exchanging information, with the
Americans spending most of the time
doing the talking. They have been
briefing their Israeli counterparts on
what actually is happening on the
ground. U.S. officials said Israel has
some excellent sources of intelligence
information on much of the Arab
world, but that's not so much the case
in the Arabian peninsula.
"When it comes to Lebanon,
Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the PLO,"
an American governmental source
said, "Israel rally knows what's going
on. But that's not true in Saudi
Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf."
The source said Israel relies on
Washington for a great deal of what
it knows about the internal scene in
these countries.
The Israeli Embassy in Wash-
ington has a full-time diplomat as-
signed to the specific task of collect-
ing such information from U.S. ex-
perts at the State Department, the
National Security Council, the Pen-
tagon and the Central Intelligence
Agency. He spends virtually all of his
time obtaining U.S. assessments on .
the Arab world and then passing
them along to Jerusalem.
Israeli officials in Washington
conceded that they get a tremendous
amount of information from the
Americans, but they still maintained
that Israel does have other sources of
information about Saudi Arabia.
Over the years, there reportedly
have even been some (but not many)
clandestine contacts between high-
ranking Israeli and Saudi officials in
the United States, Western Europe
and other countries.
The other major emphasis dur-
ing the U.S.-Israeli discussions on
the Gulf war, of course, involves
American arms transfers to Saudi


Arabia. This was highly publicized in
recent weeks with the emergency
transfer to the Saudis of 400 portable
Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Israel
opposed the sale, but could do noth-
ing about it since it was made under
President Reagan's emergency
waiver of regular congressional re-
view. •
In addition, Israel was hampered
by the fact that it was in no mood to
enter into a bitter dispute with an
Administration perceived in
Jerusalem as basically friendly. The
Likud-led coalition government,
moreover, did not want a high-profile
rift with Washington on the eve of
the July 23 elections in Israel.
The New York Times, in reflect-
ing this attitude, reported that Arens
and Weinberger spent a total of two
minutes discussing the Stinger sale
at the tail end of their Pentagon
meeting on May 30. Israel, in any
case, clearly did not want to become
the obstacle standing in the way of
American strategy for easing the
crisis in the Gulf, even if it thought
the plan was off-base.

An Israeli official in Washington
pointed to some possible silver lin-
ings for Israel in the aftermath of the
Iran-Iraq war and the escalating ten-
sions in the oil-rich Arab countries.
He said that the Saudi penchant
toward indecision and the general re-
fusal to take a more openly-
cooperative stance with the United
States — despite the recent downing
of two Iranian F-4 Phantonis — con-
trasted sharply with Israel's solidly
pro-American orientation.
"Now," he said, "they have a bet-
ter sense of their truly reliable allies
in the region." The fact is that many
American officials, even including
some State Department Arabists
who usually can be expected to adopt
an almost knee-jerk pro-Saudi posi-
tion, lately have become increasingly
more fed-up with the Saudis. •
Secondly, the official said the
tensions in the Gulf will further push
the industrialized West away from a
dependence on Arab oil. The Arab oil
embargo of 1973-1974 was the first
phase in this.trend. "That was a real
shock;" he said. "Now, there's a sec-
ond shock."
The hoped-for result of course,
will be a lesser dependence on Arab
oil supplies which could be expected
to result in fewer .anti-Israeli pres-
sures in the future.
In the meantime, there is a crisis
atmosphere in the Reagan Adminis-
tration as officials explore options in
the Gulf war. The U.S. and its allies
do indeed have important national
interests in the region. But for Israel,
the matter is still a -relative
sideshow. Israel is monitoring the
scene, but is certainly not agonizing
over it

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