NEW YORK (Feb. 15)
The Republican party leader in Congress declared tonight that the United States will “do everything it can in the interest of peace and stability in the Middle East” and “will do more than talk.” In a speech prepared for delivery tonight at the America-Israel friendship dinner of Bnai Zion, Rep. Gerald Ford, House minority leader and chief administration spokesman in Congress, affirmed that “The United States is prepared to supply the military equipment necessary for friendly governments such as Israel, to defend themselves.”
Stressing the urgency of correct assessment by Israel of American intentions in the Middle East crisis and the need for improved communications between Israel and America, Rep. Ford announced that he had proposed “establishment of a telephone hot-line between Washington and Jerusalem” which, he pointed out “would enable either President Richard Nixon or Prime Minister Golda Meir to clarify any misunderstanding.” The hot-line, the Republican leader said, “would also be useful if new factors developed that threatened a dangerous escalation or spreading of the conflict. “Israel.” he said, “would have the reassurance of instantaneous communication with the President. The President could act instantly, in some unforeseen crisis, by contacting Mrs. Meir.”
(In Washington, observers suggested that Mr. Ford would not have made reference to a hot-line proposal without previous clearance with the White House. They noted, too, that establishment of such a line would mark an official recognition by the United States of Jerusalem as the official seat of the Israeli Government.)
U.S. WORKING FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF ISRAEL
In discussing the supply of arms to Israel, Rep. Ford said the administration “would, of course, prefer restraint in the shipment of arms into this troubled area. But we are aware of what other major powers are doing. We are maintaining a very careful vigilance. We will not hesitate to take the steps required.” The United States, he declared, is “deeply engaged in trying to help the people of the Middle East find peace. But we will not do this at the expense of Israel. Indeed, we will not do this at the expense of any nation’s legitimate interests. No peace agreement will be worth the paper its written on if either side ends up cheated and bent on violent redress as soon as it has adequate power.” He pledged that “this administration is not going to negotiate the peace in the Middle East. There is no question of our negotiating away the basic rights and interest of the nations now at war. They must negotiate the peace themselves.” He said that “the Soviet Union or Egypt or anyone else would be badly misguided to conclude that the United States is going to high-pressure Israel into unilateral withdrawal.”
The Republican leader sharply condemned the French decision to provide Mirage jet fighters to Libya, pointing out that “the huge new infusion of arms into a hotbed of contention does not help reduce violence or fatalities.” The issue, he indicated, would figure largely in talks in Washington during President Georges Pompidou’s forthcoming visit. Rep. Ford disclosed that the administration currently is “looking into the broader question of the Mediterranean, the mission of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and related factors.” He declared that “we do not want a confrontation with the Soviet Union or anyone else. But we have commitments in the Mediterranean and the right to maintain military forces there.”
The 1600 communal, civic and Zionist leaders at the meeting were read messages from President Nixon, Prime Minister Golda Meir and Foreign Minister Abba Eban, all of whom lauded Dr. Harris J. Levine of New York, who won the Bnai Zion America-Israel Friendship Award. Dr. Levine has served as President of the Jewish National Fund of America from 1950 to 1960 and as Chairman of the Bnai Zion Home for Retarded Children in Rosh Ha’ayin, Israel and the Bnai Zion America-Israel Friendship House In New York.