LOS ANGELES (Aug. 28)
A Republican Congressional leader said here today that “the Nixon administration does not seek to impose peace in the Middle East but will spare no effort to help find the road to peace.” Representative Gerald R. Ford, of Michigan, Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives, outlined the latest views of the Nixon Administration on the Middle East in a speech prepared for delivery tonight at the opening of the 72nd national convention of the Zionist Organization of America. His speech before 1,000 ZOA delegates was presumed to have been cleared by the White House.
According to Rep. Ford, the main objective of the Nixon Administration in the region is peace, not only for the safety of the region but “because the United States does not want to become involved in a major conflict in the Middle East or any other area.” For that reason, he said, the administration has decided to continue bilateral talks with the Soviet Union. He said those talks have not broken down but are in fact “continuing.”
Mr. Ford asserted that “the Administration does not believe that the U.S.-Soviet talks can bring peace in and of themselves but it does believe the United States would be derelict if it did not make every effort to determine whether negotiations between Israel and the Arab states would be possible under the auspices of United Nations Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring.”
DECLARES ADMINISTRATION IS FULFILLING ITS SECURITY COMMITMENTS TO ISRAEL
The Republican leader said the first of 50 Phantom jet supersonic fighter-bombers now on order for Israel will be delivered in September. He disclosed that the original Israeli order of 44 Sky hawk subsonic jets has been doubled to 88. Mr. Ford asserted that the Nixon Administration was fulfilling its security commitments to Israel. He cited the recent graduation of “the first class of Israeli Phantom pilots” trained by the U.S. Air Force. He said Israeli mechanics were also being trained here for maintenance of the highly sophisticated aircraft.
Mr. Ford was critical of the Security Council’s unanimous condemnation of Israel’s Aug. 11 air raid on guerrilla bases in Lebanon. “It has been said that the U.S. should employ a more balanced policy in the Middle East,” the Congressman declared. “If there is validity in that statement, then what should be said of the United Nations and its practice of condemning Israel for its retaliatory raids but only mildly reproving Arab violators of the UN cease-fire? And what should be said of the Arabs who currently are firing Russian-made rockets into Jerusalem?”
SEES SOVIET INFLUENCE IN MIDEAST AS ‘REGRETTABLE FACT OF LIFE’
Rep. Ford said the Nixon Administration saw Soviet influence in the Middle East as a “regrettable fact of life—a demonstration of Soviet power which must be dealt with just as anywhere else in the world.” He said the administration “has no illusions about long-range Soviet intentions in that area” but is “trying to turn an era of confrontation into an era of negotiation.”
Mr. Ford charged that “The Soviets are trying to use Arab-Israeli tensions to expand into the Middle East and it is in the vital interests of the U.S. to prevent Soviet domination there.” He said “We know that the Russians are now employing gun-boat diplomacy in the Mediterranean,” that Russian warships there now outnumber the U.S. Sixth Fleet and that the Russians “are engaged in naval exercises off the coasts of Syria and Egypt, using bases in those two countries and that the exercises include a Russian aircraft carrier equipped for troop-carrying helicopters.”
In this situation, he said, the continuation of bilateral talks with Moscow was necessary “to probe and assess Russian intentions” and to “keep up a dialogue in order to avoid a nuclear confrontation in that area of the world.” Mr. Ford said it was possible that the talks “will produce a broad framework for realistic negotiations between the principal parties to the dispute.”
SAYS FOUR POWER TALKS HAVE REDUCED DANGER OF NUCLEAR CONFRONTATION
He said that the Four Power and Two Power talks in which the U.S. has participated have not yet contributed in any measure to ending the Middle East conflict but have greatly reduced the danger of nuclear confrontation. He said the Nixon Administration was fully aware that even if an imposed peace were possible in the Middle East it would not likely prove permanent. “I assure you,” Mr. Ford said, “the Nixon Administration is convinced that only local initiatives can resolve local conflicts; it is only local solutions that can produce permanent peace” in the Middle East. He noted that the President spoke of “local responsibility for peace, progress and security” during his recent tour of Asian countries. “He said the search for Middle East peace must go on and the “Russians might ultimately conclude that they have made a bad investment in that area.”
TORCZYNER ASKS ADMINISTRATION TO PROVIDE ISRAEL WITH MORE PLANES AND ARMS
The president of the Zionist Organization of America urged the Nixon Administration tonight to provide Israel with additional jet planes and other necessary arms to defend itself. Jacques Torczyner, in his keynote address to the 1,000 delegates at the convention said, “we hope the President will listen with sympathy to the request that will be made by the government of Israel during the official visit here of Premier Golda Meir.” He said additional jets were necessary to reduce the quantitative imbalance of air strength between Israel and its Arab neighbors, supplied by the Soviet Union.
“The President knows that Israel is the only bulwark against Communism in the Middle East,” Mr. Torczyner said.
Fred Kahan, who presided at the opening session, warned that “we must not minimize the real danger to Israel at this time. The prospect facing the State of Israel is that of a long war of attrition.” He said that the task of the Zionist movement was to defend the interest of the people in Israel, in America, the Soviet Union and in every corner of the globe where they were in danger.