WASHINGTON (Jun. 6)
President Nixon’s Annapolis speech, his meeting with seven Jewish leaders and Secretary of State Henry A Kissinger’s breakfast with three key Senators on the Jackson Amendment have brought a welter of statements on the Soviet emigration issue that indicate a possible change of attitude in the Kremlin and a cautious feeling that a compromise may be to process between the White House and Congress on the issue before the President goes to Moscow June 27.
Both praise and resentment of the President’s own public position, and an expression from the spokesman for the Jewish leaders that the Jewish community concern was for Soviet Jewry and was not “tied to a formula” to alleviate their circumstances were part of the picture emerging here.
The first in the series of developments yester- day was Kissinger’s second session in five weeks with Sens. Henry M. Jackson (D.Wash.), Abraham Ribicoff (D.Conn.) and Jacob K. Javits (R.NY). Afterwards, aides to the Senators said there has been “some movement in the Russian attitude.” But they explicitly warned the Jewish Telegraphic Agency “Don’t overstate that.”
Kissinger had spoken with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko about the emigration issue they said, at the start of his 33-day Middle East, travels that ended in the Syrian-Israeli disengagement accord. Gromyko’s responses seemed to indicate, a Senatorial source said, that “some progress” had been made towards a possible compromise between the Nixon Administration’s view to kill the Jackson Amendment and the determination of the vast majorities in both Houses of Congress to legislate it as part of the Trade Reform Act. The measure is now in the Senate Finance Committee which concluded hearings on it April 11. The House has already approved it as the Mills-Vanik Amendment.
SPEECH TO ASSURE SOVIETS
President Nixon’s continued public opposition to the Jackson Amendment, as indicated by his tough stand against it at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement, was regarded as an assurance to the Soviet Union in advance of his visit there. Nevertheless, it was assailed on Capitol Hill. The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, pointing to the increasing harassment of Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate, said the President has given the Russians “advance notice they may exercise a free hand with regard to their ‘internal affairs’ without fear of moral condemnation by this Administration.”
Late yesterday, leaders representing the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations met at the White House with Kissinger for an hour and afterwards with the President for 45 minutes. Kissinger and Presidential assistant Leonard Garment attended. Leaders present in the order listed by a White House press announcement were Max Fisher; Rabbi Israel Miller; Jacob Stein; Charlotte Jacobson; Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg; David Blumberg and Lewis Cole. The announcement said the leaders had requested the meeting. Fisher later said that he had initiated it.
Rabbi Miller, chairman of the Presidents Conference, said upon leaving the White House that “we have not altered our position” on the Jackson Amendment, but added that “If some formula can be worked out between President Nixon and Sen. Jackson that is acceptable to them then the Jewish community could find it acceptable. “We are not tied to a formula,” he said. “We are tied to the plight of Soviet Jewry.”
SAYS NIXON REAFFIRMED CONCERN
In speaking with the White House media representatives, Rabbi Miller. serving as spokesman for the Jewish leaders, said Nixon “reaffirmed the continued concern of his Administration” for Soviet Jews. Questioned in light of the Presidents Annapolis speech. Rabbi Miller said “We are not interested in changing any country’s social system. We are interested in Soviet Jewry.”
According to Rabbi Miller, Nixon told them that the emigration issue might be raised in certain ways because “Russian Jewry is close to his heart.” The rabbi added that the President indicated the matter would be on the agenda at the Moscow summit conference. The President’s speech itself, he said, was not brought up at their meeting. He observed, in responding to questions that “We have always said as members of the Jewish community we would not stand in the way of U.S. policy but the plight of Soviet Jewry should be of humanitarian concern to our government.”
Asked if a Jackson-Nixon compromise were possible, Rabbi Miller replied that Nixon was speaking as President and Jackson and others for their constituencies. “We hope,” he said, “there can be a meeting ground between them and means found to do both things”–preserve detente and bring about Soviet emigration. “It cannot be only a diplomatic effort but an effort of expression of the will of the people and that can’t be done in the quiet of a room,” Rabbi Miller said. “We are assured of the President’s continued efforts to ease the plight of Soviet Jews,” he added, and observed that Sen. Jackson is “waiting for an overt act from the Soviet Union that they understand the reason for his bill.”
Blumberg, president of B’nai B’rith which is firmly committed to the Jackson Amendment, reported that the President did not exert pressure on the Jewish leaders regarding that proposal. He said he came away from the meeting with the impression that the Administration is seeking to come to a working arrangement with Sen. Jackson that would still be for the benefit of Soviet Jews.