NEW YORK (Sep. 27)
President Nixon met yesterday for 45 minutes with 32 American Jewish leaders to tell them that he was working through diplomatic channels over the plight of Soviet Jews who have been denied exit visas. According to Presidential press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler, Nixon informed the Jewish leaders, all of whom have publicly Identified themselves as his supporters for re-election, that he does not want to “politicize” or “demagogue about” the matter or “Inject it into public debate” or “engage in harsh confrontation,” with either the Soviet leaders or Presidential campaign rivals.
Ziegler told newsmen at a press conference at the Commodore Hotel shortly after Nixon met with the Jewish leaders at the Waldorf-Astoria that an extensive public debate on the Issue of exit visas would “only serve to be counterproductive.” He added. In response to a question, that he meant counterproductive to Soviet Jewish interests. Asked If diplomatic channels were in fact being used, he replied: “The Soviet Union is aware of the United States view in this matter and I don’t want to go any further.”
The Presidential press secretary said that the Jewish leaders “expressed concern” about the Imposition of heavy exit fees on educated Soviet Jews seeking emigration, but voiced “nothing but confidence” in Nixon’s handling of the matter. Ziegler reported that Nixon prefers to deal with the exit tax matter through “diplomatic channels,” and the Soviet leadership has been “aware of our views for some time,” Ziegler continued.
NO IMPOSED SETTLEMENT IN MIDEAST
At the meeting with the Jewish leaders, Nixon “understood the deep feelings about the (emigration) matter and Indeed shared the human concern Involved,” Ziegler reported. He said In response to questions that neither Nixon nor the Jewish leaders raised the question of the amendment proposed by Sen. Abraham A. Ribicoff (D. Conn.), making the projected US-USSR trade deal contingent on elimination of the exit fees.
Ziegler said Nixon also assured the Jewish leaders that the US would “under no circumstances impose a settlement in the Middle East”; that the administration was “committed to the survival of the State of Israel (and) the strength of Israel”; that the US would continue to “make available the assistance to Israel (necessary to) maintain her strength and that the “strong US presence in the Mediterranean” would be maintained.
The Jewish leaders attending Included, Max Fisher, Dr. William Wexler, Samuel Romberg, Mrs. Rita Hauser, Leonard Goldfine, Lawrence Goldberg; Jacques Torczyner, Rabbi Herschel Schacter, Rabbi Seymour Siegel, Meshulem Riklis, Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, Herman Weisman, Rabbi Ronald Greenwald, Melvin Dubinsky, and Rabbi Solomon Sharfman. Six other leaders who were Invited to attend the meeting with Nixon in addition to the 35 who did, were reported out of the country or unavailable. They included Joseph Meyerhoff, Louis Boyar and Taft Schreiber.
JEWISH LEADERS IMPRESSED WITH NIXON
Fisher told the JTA from Detroit today that “the President made It clear that he’s not going to use this (Soviet Jewry issue) for political capital, and I think this Is quite correct.” Calling Nixon “very forthright” on the matter, Fisher said he was “convinced” the President was trying to “help” Soviet Jews. On the question of anti-Semitism in the USSR. Fisher noted that this has existed for many more years than Nixon has been President.
Rothberg, chairman of Israel Bond Organization, said that he was deeply impressed by the President’s statement of his commitment to support Israel. “Nixon was very, very serious,” he said. Rabbi Schacter said “I was very Impressed. Everything he (Nixon) had to say on Israel was very firm and unequivocal. On Soviet Jewry he was equally forceful.” Nixon, Rabbi Schacter said, told the Jewish leaders that he did not want to make a political issue of this because the Soviet Union would slam the door on emigration.
Rabbi Siegel. professor at the Jewish The logical Seminary, said he was “very Impressed” with Nixon’s stance, including the caution that the Soviets would “lock the door” on Jews seeking to emigrate if the US government pressured the Kremlin publicly. Rabbi Siegel said Nixon deplored the Munich massacre, and spoke “extremely warmly” of Israel and Its courage and of his personal commitment to Israel’s security.
MCGOVERN AIDE RAPPED FOR POSITION ON ISRAEL
Prior to the press conference, a representative from the New York Committee to Re-Elect the President, distributed a copy of an article that appeared in a newspaper, “Hatchet,” a publication of a student society at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., which carried a headline, “Gary Hart: Israeli Raids Wrong.” The article, signed by Mark Nadler, editor-in-chief, stated that Hart, Sen. George McGovern’s campaign manager. In response to a question, told a crowd of 500 students at the university on Sept. 19 that McGovern should condemn Israel for its recent retaliatory raids on Lebanon. “I don’t know whether he (MeGovern) has or not, but he should have condemned Israel,” Nadler reported Hart said.
Hart, in a letter to the editor which appeared in “Hatchet” a week later, stated that In response to a question concerning the failure of the political community to condemn “the killings of a large number of Lebanese civilians during those raids… I suggested that Senator McGovern has condemned and would continue to condemn, any military action which resulted In the killing of Innocent, unarmed non-combatants. The question of whether the raids themselves, directed against guerrilla camps on the Lebanese border, were justified was never raised, and therefore never responded to.”
An unsigned editorial In the student newspaper, defended Its treatment of Hart’s speech and noted that his letter “clarified but did not alter the substance of his original remarks.” The editorial stated further that Hart “made an unfortunate statement of great news value and that’s the way we treated It.”