WASHINGTON (Apr. 13)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voting in bare quorum last night, approved a bill for the appropriation of $85 million to aid the resettlement of Soviet Jewish refugees in Israel and in any other country that accepts them. The provision that countries other than Israel could apply for assistance represented a significant departure from the original measure sponsored by Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D.Me.)
The amendment was in fact proposed by Sen. Muskie in a communication to committee chairman J. William Fulbright (D. Ark.) A Muskie aide intimated that its purpose was to ward off criticism that funds were authorized exclusively for Israel. Only eight or nine members of the 16 committee members attended the voting session and it was understood that Fulbright was the only one to vote against the measure.
Two of Israel’s staunchest supporters in the Senate told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that they were opposed to the Muskie bill. Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.) said the sum proposed was “totally inadequate” and said he would propose a larger sum when the measure reaches the Senate floor. Sen. Stuart Symington (D. Mo.), a committee member not present at the voting, said he withheld his vote because he feared the bill could affect military purchase credits for Israel.
Jackson, sponsor of a bill to authorize $250 million to help Israel resettle Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union, favored the amendment that would extend such aid to countries other than Israel. “The problem goes beyond taking care of the situation in Israel.” he told the JTA. “I would help refugees who might to go countries other than Israel which is the whole point. It’s a refugee problem, not just an Israeli problem.” He added that he thought the US should take the lead in solving it but should have the help of others, particularly European countries. “We can’t carry it all alone,” Jackson said.
COULD AFFECT ARMS FOR ISRAEL
Symington told the JTA that he thought “$85 million for this particular cause is not going to help provide armaments for Israel. It is an unfortunate resolution since it could affect arms for Israel.” Continuing, he said: “My apprehension about this bill is based on my desire to see Israel obtain the arms it needs to defend itself which at times has been very difficult and so far has been successful and has always had my strong support.”
Symington said another reason he refrained from voting on the Muskie measure was his concern over reports in the press that Soviet Jews allowed to go to Israel now want to return to the USSR. He said he had asked another committee member, Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.N.Y.), how many wanted to return. Javits did not know but said he would try to obtain the figures, Symington told the JTA.
Javits, one of the original co-sponsors of the Muskie bill which now has 45 co-sponsors in the Senate, led the fight for approval of the measure at last night’s session of the Foreign Relations Committee which Muskie did not attend. It was understood that a majority of those voting for the bill acted to attach it to the State Department’s budget authorization bill for fiscal 1973 which begins July 1. The Muskie bill was expected to be reported out by the committee later today. Until then it is still “tentative” according to committee aides. A bill identical to the original Muskie measure is still before a House subcommittee handling State Department appropriations.