Jewish Leaders See Peril in U.S. Nuclear Aid to Egypt

American Jewish leaders reacted with alarm today over the Nixon Administration’s decision to supply Egypt with nuclear reactors and fuel for peaceful purposes. Statements issued here and in Washington cited the example of India which received nuclear material for peaceful purposes and went ahead to manufacture an atomic bomb.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations charged that the “American atomic give-away to Egypt” was a case of “too much too soon.” Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress warned that the Nixon decision was “more likely to endanger world peace than preserve it” Ainslee R. Ferdie, National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S. said “President Nixon’s pledge to provide Egypt with nuclear capabilities for peaceful use threatens all efforts for peace in the Middle East.”

One of the first reactions from Congress came from Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D.Pa.) who said “I cannot imagine a more serious error than that of providing nuclear capability to a nation which will undoubtedly make every effort to develop atomic weapons for the clear purpose of threatening one other nation, Israel.”

The reaction here to the U.S.-Egyptian nuclear cooperation agreement paralleled that of leading scientists in Israel and former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan (See story P.1). The Conference of Presidents, which represents 32 national Jewish organizations, declared in a “Middle East Memo” distributed today to opinion-makers and Jewish community leaders that there is “danger that the U.S. will be providing Egypt with a military nuclear capability.” Noting that the nuclear bomb recently tested by India was developed from a Canadian reactor giver India for peaceful purposes, the Memo asked:

“Can there be any doubt that Egypt will seek to develop its own A-bomb once it has atomic reactors and fuel and the American know-how to go with them?” The statement dismissed assurances that the atomic agreement would include tight controls, such as on-site inspection. “Suppose Egypt decides to kick out American inspectors the way it kicked out Soviet military, advisors in 1972?” the Presidents Conference asked.

Rabbi Hertzberg warned that the nuclear deal with Egypt “is more likely to escalate the fears and distrust which produce war.” He observed that “If giving away atomic know-how is the price of wining Egyptian friendship, the remarkable achievements of America’s recent initiatives in the Middle East become much less impressive and, indeed, suspect….India’s recent testing of an atomic weapon should have forewarned the United States that there is no guarantee Egypt’s nuclear reactor will be used for peaceful purposes.” he said. He called on “the U.S. Congress, the American public and the Administration itself” for further discussion of the proposal “before it is implemented.”

In a statement issued in Washington on behalf of the JWV. Ferdie also cited the Indian bomb and declared. “This is no time to start a tit-for-tat nuclear capability fight among the Middle East nations.”

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