WASHINGTON (Dec. 16)
American intercessions for a Middle East settlement and a lifting of the Arab oil embargo will not involve “selling Israel down the river.” a B’nai B’rith official said today. Herman Edelsberg, B’nai B’rith’s director of international affairs, described such fears as groundless. Addressing a symposium on Middle East issues at the annual meeting of the B’nai B’rith Board of Governors, Edelsberg said any U.S. policy “which permits Israel to go down” would be inimical to vital American interests.
“The Middle East would then fall under Soviet domination and America would cease to be number one in the world. It is a grievous error to assume so colossal a failure of American resolve and purpose,” Edelsberg declared. “Inevitably,” he added, “there will be American pressure on Israel and disagreements between the two countries. The requirements of Israel’s security look different when viewed from Jerusalem or Washington. But they will be the disagreements of friends with a common objective,” Edelsberg maintained.
He said that “realistic expectations” of the Geneva conference offered, at best, “peace-making in slow stages, hopefully beginning with cautious concessions on both sides.” Clouding the conference, Edelsberg said, were two overriding questions. “Is the Arab vendetta against Israel over? And is the Soviet Union willing to see peace in the Middle East rather than tensions it can exploit?”
Another symposium speaker, Benjamin R. Epstein, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, warned against “public misunderstanding” of the Arab oil embargo as “a political ploy that would disappear if Israel disappears.” Epstein urged efforts to encourage greater public awareness “that the essential intent of Saudi Arabia is economic and that a lifting of the oil embargo tomorrow would not substantially diminish the energy crisis.”
He said the Saudis had “calculatingly initiated an enforced scarcity” by limiting their production while maintaining huge annual earnings through higher prices and “doing better for themselves” by keeping more oil underground. “It is worth noting that such countries as Great Britain and India, each of which adopted a pro-Arab attitude in deference to the oil embargo, are nonetheless confronted with serious energy shortages unrelieved by Arab oil fields,” the ADL leader declared.
At an earlier session, B’nai B’rith reacted to the British government’s pro-Arab policy during the recent war and announced it was cancelling London as the site of its triennial convention next year. The cancellation was proposed by B’nai B’rith president David M. Blumberg and adopted by the Board of Governors. Blumberg stated that the action followed numerous petitions and protests from its members “expressing concern that a convention in London might be construed as indifference to the British government’s anti-Israel policy.” He added that the action “is not meant to be vindictive. We have no quarrel with the fair-minded attitude of the British people.”