Sen. Fulbright Lashes out at Foreign Aid Bill Provision for Desalination Loan

Sen. J. William Fulbright (Dem.,Ark.) chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lashed out Friday against America’s foreign aid program which, he charged, has become an “instrument for the perpetuation of the political status quo in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Sen. Fulbright’s ire was directed specifically at a foreign aid authorization bill passed by the Senate which provides a $40 million development loan for Israel to finance a water desalination plant.

The Senator charged that friends of Israel were able to get more United States Government money for that country than U.S. Senators could obtain for projects in their home states. He claimed that certain foreign countries are treated with favoritism and asked the Senate to consider if it was “more important to have a desalting plant in the Middle East than in our own Southwest. Senator Fulbright also attacked appropriations for projects in Taiwan, South Korea, South Vietnam and other places.

The Senator, a leading opponent of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, suggested that the Nixon Administration is currently “in the throes” of a wide-ranging reappraisal of U.S. policy from Asia to the Mideast. His reference was apparently to the statement of U.S. Mideast policy by Secretary of State William P. Rogers here last Tuesday.

The Senate’s foreign aid appropriations bill retained the $40 million authorization for Israel that was included in a bill passed last week by the House. The Senate version however authorizes a loan while the House bill makes an outright grant to Israel. The two versions must be worked out by a Senate-House conference. It is thought likely that the authorization will be retained in some form in the final bill. But the Administration may elect not to implement it. The White House is known to oppose spending U.S. funds for the desalination project.

The House appropriations committee however has already voted $20 million to begin implementing the five-year program. Feasibility studies made by the Johnson Administration indicated the advisability of a desalting development in Israel. The technology achieved would be the product of joint American-Israeli cooperation. The authorization bill also includes sums for various Israeli institutions including the Hebrew University-Hadassah Hospital and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

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