Roosevelt Discusses Israel-arab Issues Before Leaving House for U.N.
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Roosevelt Discusses Israel-arab Issues Before Leaving House for U.N.

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Rep, James Roosevelt, whose appointment as new United States Ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council was confirmed today by the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed in a speech in the House of Representatives today a United Nations plan to resolve Arab-Israel water differences. He also urged that Israel demonstrate a “stronger initiative” to settle claims of the Palestine Arab refugees.

It was believed that his address would be the last on Near East issues, with which he had dealt often in the House, before he assumes his new duties at the United Nations.

Rep. Roosevelt, California Democrat, cautioned that the Arab-Israel water dispute could lead to war, and urged nuclear desalination, “using Israel as a model project.” He said “The United Nations has an opportunity here to work for a regional water planning system for this area, for which the U.N. should assume definite responsibility.” Such a pilot project, he said, could advance nuclear desalination and, meanwhile, also provide “the basis for exploring the potential for a regional approach to the other basic issues dividing Israel and the Arab countries.”


Turning to the Arab refugee problem, Mr. Roosevelt told the House that “a real effort to help the refugees would improve Israel’s image. Both sides must cease being totally negative.” He stated: “Israel herself has collected substantial reparation for German injuries to Jewish people, and should take a stronger initiative to receive and settle just claims of Arab refugees.”

Rep. Roosevelt added that Arab states rejected projects designed to integrate Arabs into the economic life of the Near East for “political reasons.” He asserted that the United States must now work to phase out the activities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East by “resettlement of the refugees and by providing work opportunities for them through establishment of an international committee, with the U.N. supervising the gradual transfer of UNRWA activities to the Arab governments.”

Commenting on President Nasser of Egypt, Mr. Roosevelt said that, although Nasser has not been “a popular figure among serious practitioners of Middle East diplomacy, he is a key factor in the achievement of United States objectives in the region: Peace, stability, economic development, and the absence of Communist penetration.” “By working with the Egyptian leader,” he said, “we have been able to obtain a modicum of positive results for the United States in the Middle East.”

He added that the arguments for continuation of emphasis on Egypt have become less persuasive because “there are few signs of real progress” and “peace is precarious. The danger of Communist penetration is no less acute. The major obstacle to progress has been, and remains, a fixed focus on Egypt, rather than on the entire region.” He noted that U.S. aid “released Egyptian funds for direct military expenditures” and that “since 1956, Russia has been providing Egypt with about $65,000,000 a year in modern arms.”

Citing American obligations under the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, Rep. Roosevelt said the cost and danger of implementation “is directly proportional to the size and sophistication of Egypt’s arsenal, as Egypt grows militarily stronger, and more adventurous.”


Mr. Roosevelt emphasized that the views he voiced today “are not necessarily the views of my country as determined by the President and the State Department and, therefore, can not be binding upon me in the new duties which I shall assume.” However, he said, the views in his speech here today reflected his “sincere convictions” in hopes of “a real peace in the Near East.” He also expressed hope that, in his new assignment at the United Nations, he could be the friend of both Arabs and Israelis. He said he found it a source of concern that, after 17 years, “we have been unable to bring the Arabs and Israelis to the peace table.”

A response to Rep. Roosevelt was made on the House floor by Rep. Seymour Halpern, New York Republican, who said that, while he considered Mr. Roosevelt “a fine choice for the U.S. delegation to the U.N.,” he “could not agree with some of the comments about Israel made today.”

Rep. Halpern took particular exception to Mr. Roosevelt’s comment linking German reparations to Jews with his call for greater response by Israel to Arab refugee claims. He said that “to equate the gas ovens of Auschwitz and the brutal genocide by the Nazis against 6,000,000 Jews with the Arab refugee situation, which resulted from the Arab aggression against Israel, is a disservice to history.” “I am confident,” he declared, “that Mr. Roosevelt, upon further reflection, will quickly recognize the justice of my remarks because of his distinguished record as a humanitarian.”

“Also,” said Rep. Halpern, “the water problem will not be solved by introduction of new U.N. complications, allowing the Arabs a voice in Israel’s domestic water needs and looking for an escape from current Arab diversion threats by referring Israel to eventual hopes for nuclear desalination. It would be better to urge the U.S. delegation to the U.N. to issue a clear statement denouncing the Arab diversion tactics as an aggression which threatens the peace.”

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