Sharon tries to nix US arms sales to Arabs
Israel has begun calling on the American Jewish community to take every possible step to oppose further US arms sales to Arab nations.
The Israeli appeal appears to have been sparked by the possibility that the Reagan administration will sell fighter planes and anti-aircraft weapons to Jordan.
The Israelis apparently believe that they gave mixed signals to the US Jewish community in the campaign to gain congressional disapproval last year of the AWACS radar plane sale to Saudi Arabia. They lost that battle. This time around, they want to be unmistakably clear.
Much to the annoyance of some US State Department officials, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon has been not only forcefully stating the Israeli position in meetings with American Jews, but also urging them to act to defeat any further arms sales proposals for the Arab nations. Sharon is currently in the United States on a visit that includes stops in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
In a May 22 speech in Washington to the national leadership conference of the United Jewish Appeal, General Sharon said: ''If you really want peace . . . in our region . . . you have to act. You must raise your voices. You must take every possible step in order to stop as early as possible any further supply of sophisticated, modern weapons to the Arab countries.''
Sharon also stated that Israel now was facing a new danger: a coalition of four Arab nations - Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia - which might have US encouragement. He said that the coalition's purpose would be to contain Iran, which now is gaining the upper hand in its war with Iraq. He added that such a coalition not only constituted a danger to Israel, but also would bring deeper Soviet involvement in the Middle East.
State Department officials, who declined to be identified, said that the Sharon thesis about a new coalition was nonsense. They suggested that Sharon was exaggerating the Arab threat in order to generate more support from Israel's backers in this country. The officials also denied allegations that the US is attempting to woo Iraq, a nation which Sharon described as unalterably opposed to Israel and to peace in the region.
State Department officials doubt that the defense minister of any nation other than Israel would attempt to influence and mobilize a segment of the American public the way Israel has. But one leader in the Jewish community, Israel Singer, the executive director of the World Jewish Congress based in New York City, took strong exception to this.
''The Israelis have the right to come in and tell us what they think is endangering Israel's security,'' Mr. Singer said in a telephone interview. ''Why not? Don't you think the Taiwanese do that? Don't you think the Irish do that?''
''It doesn't mean that everybody automatically falls into line,'' said Singer. ''We don't have to respond to every request from Israel. . . . But we have the duty and responsibility as intelligent Americans to decide whether the Israelis are right or not.
''American government officials have no right to accuse members of the American Jewish community of having a dual loyalty,'' he said. ''That's what some of them tried to do in the AWACS debate - particularly former President Nixon - and I told them they were wrong.''
In his May 22 speech, Sharon argued that the quantities of weapons which the Arab nations had received from the West and from the Soviet bloc over the past 10 years far outweighed the amount shipped to Israel: more than $75 billion worth to the Arabs as compared with $12.7 billion to Israel, according to his count.
Sharon contended that the city of Jerusalem, as well as half of Israel's airfields, would be within the range of the new missiles being considered for sale to Jordan.
''I have always regarded our people abroad to be responsible for the future and for the security of Israel not less than we were . . .,'' said Sharon in his speech. ''Israel is not an Israeli project. It is a Jewish project. It is your responsibility exactly as it is ours.''
Sharon also warned in his speech that Israel faced the danger of new pressures upon it when it came to the question of the currently stalemated Egyptian-Israeli negotiations over Palestinian ''autonomy.''