WASHINGTON (Jan. 24)
Members of Congress of both parties today charged the Administration with failure to meet the growing Soviet challenge in the Middle East and asserted that preoccupation with Vietnam has spread U.S. forces so thin that the Communists are tempted to push in other areas.
Sen. Stuart Symington, Mis. Dem. who served as U.S. Air Force Secretary, voiced apprehension over over-commitment in Vietnam in connection with the bold North Korean seizure of a U.S. Navy ship. In this connection, he referred also to the dangerous Soviet role in the Mediterranean and contended that U.S. defense resources may be spread too thin because of Vietnam to meet Communist diversions in the Middle East.
Chairman J. W. Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said developments in the Middle East made it “clear” that America was “over-committed” in Vietnam, lessening influence “everywhere else.”
Senate Republican Whip Thomas H. Kuchel, who substituted for Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen on a GOP “State of the Union” program, said the USSR was exploiting Administration foreign policy weaknesses by moving into the Middle East. He said the Russians were “playing off” American support of Israel against Arab extremism.
Rep. Seymour Halpern, New York Rep., said “the failure of the Administration to immediately authorize the sale of Phantom jets to Israel indicates to Moscow and the Arabs the weakness of the U.S. position in the Middle East and tempts further Russian naval buildup in the Mediterranean and movement of arms and advisors to Egypt and Syria.” He said the Russians have obviously grown bolder in efforts to penetrate and dominate in that area because the Administration has failed to meet the very minimum responsibility of providing necessary defensive arms to Israel a prime target the Communists and extremist Arabs. There is no excuse for delaying the sale of the Phantom jets to Israel.”
In Tel Aviv, an American-Israel defense pact to serve as a deterrent to a new outbreak of war in the Middle East was proposed by Rep. Claude Pepper (Dem.) of Florida who arrived with a group of Miami Jewish leaders. Rep. Pepper said he would also like to see the United Nations organize a “peace defense union” to protect small nations like Israel.