JERUSALEM — Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III was one of several U.S. officials, according to an informed Israeli source, who had contact over a period of years with Israeli officials about a $1-billion Iraqi oil pipeline project that is now the subject of a special investigation in Washington.
"We considered Meese a competent member of the government of the United States, and for us, any approach by a competent member of the U.S. government is understood to be an approach by the government itself," the source said.
Meese's reported contact with the Israelis is significant because independent counsel James C. McKay is investigating Meese's role in the pipeline project, which was being promoted by his close friend and former lawyer, E. Robert Wallach. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Wallach wrote a 1985 memo to Meese discussing a plan that included suggested payments to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres or his Israeli Labor Party to secure Israeli support for the pipeline.
Peres, now Israel's foreign minister, acknowledged Saturday that the government of Israel had agreed at the behest of the Reagan Administration not to oppose construction of the pipeline but denied that he had ever been offered or received money or anything of value for acceding to the project.