WASHINGTON (Mar. 20)
The State Department sought authorization from Congress today for a fiscal 1973 budget that includes a $50 million grant to Israel in supportive aid to ease the economic burden of absorbing Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union. Joseph J. Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, disclosed that budgetary item before the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he appeared today.
He said the $50 million was included “in recognition of the heavy defense burden that Israel bears and the additional strain on its resources resulting from the increased immigration of Soviet Jews.” In reply to a question by Rep. Clement Zablocki (D., Wisc.) who presided at the committee session, Sisco said the amount of $50 million was based on a projection of the number of Soviet refugees coming to Israel and the amount the Israel government can assimilate in this period. He did not say how the funds would be ear-marked.
An earlier $50 million grant to Israel for support in absorbing immigrants from the Soviet Union is contained in the recently passed Foreign Aid Bill for fiscal 1972. A State Department official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that there was no connection between these sums and bills now pending in Congress for special assistance to Israel for the absorption of Soviet emigres.
The official referred to a measure sponsored by Sen. Edmund Muskie (D.,Me.) and Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D.,N.Y.) which calls for $85 million in such aid to Israel and another sponsored by Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D., Wash.) which would provide $250 million for the same purpose. These measures and the sum requested by the State Department are in the form of grants. In addition, the fiscal 1972 Foreign Aid Bill contains authorization of up to $300 million in credits for Israel for military purchases here. Fiscal 1972 ends on June 30 and fiscal 1973 begins July 1.
STEPS TAKEN TO MAINTAIN ARMS BALANCE
In the portion of his testimony before the Foreign Affairs Committee relating to the Middle East, Sisco said that because the Soviet Union has been “unreceptive to US suggestions for the exercise of restraint in the supply of military weapons to this volatile region, we have taken steps to maintain the arms balance.”
He said the arms balance “may not be a guarantee of peace and is not a substitute for negotiations or an end in itself, but it is a deterrent to war, a war that has the potential for escalation.” Sisco said that “what gives the Israel-Arab dispute its most dangerous dimension has been the deep and direct involvement of the Soviet Union.”
In his testimony, Sisco observed that in the Middle East “a peace settlement remains a hope rather than a reality.” He said, however, that “on the plus side, the cease-fire arranged on our initiative over a year-and-a-half ago persists.” Observing that President Nixon said recently that “the greatest threat to peace and stability in the Middle East remains the Arab-Israel conflict,” Sisco said “our policies have incorporated” the factors of both hope and danger.