Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines U.s.-ussr Negotiations on the Trade-emigration Issue in Last Stages Towards Acc

Specialists at the Capitol on the trade-emigration issue confirm that the U.S.-Soviet negotiations are in their last stages toward an agreement but they vary considerably on important aspects. Leaders of organizations fighting for Soviet Jewry have unanimously asserted they will extend their vigilance and strive not to leave monitoring of emigration and Jewish conditions in the USSR solely to Administration personnel, particularly in the State Department, who have adamantly opposed the legislative road against Soviet emigration restrictions that include harassment.

Information leaks to selected media circulating in major Jewish population centers have indicated that “at least.60,000 Jews and others could emigrate yearly” under the “compromise” now being worked out. Responding to questions by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, some specialists asserted that this figure is accurate. But many more characterized the figure as “neither a floor nor a ceiling” or as “misleading” because “what is important is not the number but what is behind it.”

Those specialists who say the figure is “accurate” also say they believe an agreement will be reached promptly, possibly within a day or two, to meet legislative requirements to pass the Trade Reform Bill at the current session of Congress before it recesses Oct. 15 for the Nov. elections. Most others, however, declare they will not be pushed into an agreement and that “the thing is not all wrapped up by any means.”

WATCHFUL EYE WILL BE MAINTAINED

Aspects that remain undecided include whether or not to keep secret the letters of understanding on the Soviet position that will be exchanged between Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D.Wash.) author of the legislation and either President Ford or Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. Capitol specialists say they will insist on disclosure but the Administration reportedly considers secrecy essential to meet Soviet sensibilities.

Another sticking point is the nature of the monitoring system of Soviet compliance with the compromise and how to handle the contingency of non-compliance. Critics of the State Department’s position have grave doubts that it can handle the monitoring satisfactorily and believe a Congressional overview is essential.

Their position is based on the view that the State Department, preoccupied with detente and the Middle East problem, might be inclined to overlook what it considered “minor” infractions by the Soviet Union but which from the Jewish viewpoint were serious violations of the spirit of the compromise. The Capitol Hill specialists are said also to be especially wary that re-writing the Jackson Amendment to provide discretionary authority to the President does not weaken the substance of the measure.

Under these circumstances, Jewish groups are going to maintain a watchful eye on developments. An official of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry told the JTA that there is “no question” that the NCSJ will continue to function both in a monitoring role on emigration and in examining the condition of Jews who elect to remain in the Soviet Union.

A prominent source in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations told the JTA that the first year of the agreement will be a trial period. The source observed that it is yet to be decided whether Congress or the President will determine what is an infraction. Similarly, a spokesman for the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry emphasized to the JTA that “a close watch” will be kept on Soviet practices. “We cannot expect the Administration people who have been opposing this thing all along to monitor it satisfactorily,” he said.

NEXT STORY