Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Israelis pour scorn on pact with US

It was not a hero's welcome that greeted Defense Minister Ariel Sharon on his return from Washington with Israel's first-ever strategic accord with the United States.

Four motions of no confidence in the government presented to the Knesset and almost universal scorn by editorial writers were the immediate reaction to the accord that Sharon had hailed as historic.

About these ads

Government sources in Jerusalem say they are unaware of any secret clauses that might lend added significance to ''The Memorandum on Understanding on Strategic Cooperation,'' as the document is called.

Sharon and other government sources had initially made a point of stating that there would be secret clauses. Under apparent American pressure, however, Sharon reported only that some details to be worked out by a joint committee next month ''might be classified.''

Former Labor Premier Yitzhak Rabin, respected as a political analyst even by leaders of the ruling Likud bloc, declared that the American part of the pact ''was not worth the paper it is written on.'' The Israeli government, on the other hand, had obliged itself to help American forces operating against the Soviet Union in the Middle East.

The explicit mention of the Soviet Union as the pact's target upset many Israelis, including not a few Likud Knesset members, who nevertheless supported their government against the no-confidence motions filed by four opposition parties Dec. 1.

Former Labor Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the Knesset that in no other pact, not even with NATO, does the US specifically pinpoint the Soviet Union.

''I don't think that Israel should become a confrontation state with the Soviet Union and present itself as a priority target for the Russians,'' said former Army Chief of Staff Mordecai Gur, now a Labor member of the Knesset.

A primary objective of the Israeli government had been American agreement to preposition in Israel large ammunition stockpiles, fuel reserves, medical supplies, and other equipment. Although intended mainly for American use in the event of intervention in the Gulf region, the supplies would have been available , Israel hoped, for Israeli use in the event of war with its Arab neighbors.

About these ads

Israel also hoped that its military industries would produce these stockpiles for the US.

Most important, however, was the belief that establishment of these stockpiles would be perceived by the Arabs as an American commitment to Israel's security. Israel has become increasingly uneasy over the growing importance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other nations in the area in Washington's strategic considerations.

The US decision to preposition only medical supplies caused deep disappointment in Jerusalem and its political significance was clearly understood. ''We wanted shells and we're getting sterile gauze,'' said one official.

Washington's refusal to hold joint ground exercises with the Israeli Army - at a time when it is holding such exercises with Egypt and other Muslim states - was taken note of by most editorial writers. So was Washington's clear determination to avoid directing the pact in any way against Israel's Arab neighbors, even the so-called rejection states, which pose the main threat to Israel.

''It's not at all clear what we're getting,'' said the mass-circulation daily Maariv,''but it's very clear what we're not getting.''

Some Cabinet ministers have complained that they were asked to approve the document at the Dec. 1 Cabinet meeting without having been shown it beforehand. Sharon read out parts of it and handed out copies to those who requested them, but they had to be returned before the brief meeting ended.

Sunday's meeting was held at the bedside of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who is hospitalized with a leg injury.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.