Golan takeover: US actions limited to 'wrist-slapping'

Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights has created another rift between Israel and the Reagan administration and, in the administration's view, possibly set back efforts to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace.

According to one Middle East specialist, top administration officials are doing a ''slow burn'' over the Israeli action.

But as of this writing it was not clear what the Reagan administration would do in a practical way to react to the annexation, aside from issuing statements condemning it and possibly agreeing to a United Nations vote of condemnation. Some specialists suggest that the administration will also slow down implementation of the recently signed strategic cooperation agreement with Israel - cutting back on certain projected American military procurements from Israeli industry, for example. In the end, however, all that this would amount to would be diplomatic and symbolic wrist slapping.

Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, acting as ''point man'' for the administration as he has done in previous clashes with the Israelis, said in an ABC television interview on Dec. 15 that the annexation of the Golan Heights was ''clearly a violation'' of United Nations resolutions and the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel. Mr. Weinberger held open the possibility that the US might suspend weapons shipments to Israel, just as it had done with deliveries of F-16 fighter planes after the Israelis bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor last June.

Despite the tough words coming from Weinberger and other US officials, however, the US is operating under a certain constraint. Like Egypt, it wants to see Israel withdraw on schedule from the Sinai in April 1982. It does not want to provoke the Israelis to the point of disrupting that withdrawal.

In explaining to the Israeli parliament his decision to extend Israeli law to the Golan Heights, Prime Minister Menachem Begin said there were historical and security reasons for the move. But he also said that there was a ''moral-political aspect'' to the decision: The Syrians, he said, had repeatedly rejected Israeli calls for negotiation and totally denied the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

American observers think that in addition to the reasons which he outlined in his address to the Knesset Dec. 14, Begin had other reasons for the annexation move. They think that the Israeli leader wants, for one thing, to counter Israeli critics of the plan to withdraw from the Sinai. One specialist also pointed to Begin's apparent belief that American efforts to defuse the Lebanon crisis and get Syria to withdraw its missiles from that country have now clearly failed. In a sense, a swap may be occurring: Syria keeps its missiles in Lebanon; Begin grabs the Golan Heights.

Sen. Charles H. Percy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, meanwhile, criticized the extension of Israeli law to the Golan Heights, calling it a ''unilateral action'' unnecessarily impeding the negotiation of a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Philip M. Klutznick, former US secretary of commerce and president emeritus of the World Jewish Congress, said that members of the American Jewish community who had called him concerning the Israeli move were ''stunned.''

Klutznick was in Washington to testify before a House subcommittee on a report which he and three others have prepared calling on the United States, among other things, to launch a peace offensive aimed at encouraging Arab states other than Egypt to move toward a comprehensive peace settlement with Israel

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.