NEW YORK (Mar. 31)
Continued American support for Israel, both in the interests of U.S. foreign policy and for the achievement of peace in the Middle East, was urged today by five members of Congress and other speakers at a meeting convened by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to open a nation-wide drive aimed at mobilizing broad public support for Israel. Addressing 350 national Jewish leaders at Conference headquarters at 515 Park Ave., Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz emphasized the importance of American support for Israel on all levels.
He said his country was mindful of the American initiative for peace in the Middle East and wanted to keep it going “because only the U.S. can bring peace to the Middle East.”
Dinitz shared the platform with Reps. Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Holtzman, Edward I. Koch, Benjamin Rosenthal and Lester L. Wolff, all members of New York City’s Democratic Congressional delegation. Rabbi Israel Miller, chairman of the Presidents Conference, declared that “a weak Israel is of little value to the U.S.” but “a strong Israel will enable it to move into peace” and any reassessment of American Middle East policy must take these facts into account.
‘GO FORTH THROUGHOUT THE LAND’
The five legislators all agreed that there was still a broad base of support for Israel in Congress and among the American people at large. But they expressed concern, as did Rabbi Miller with implications by the Ford Administration that Israel was responsible for the breakdown of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s most recent efforts to achieve a second-stage Israeli-Egyptian agreement in Sinai.
They urged leaders of the American Jewish community “to go forth throughout the land” to explain Israel’s position to the vast majority of Americans who support Israel. They agreed with Dinitz that Egypt was solely to blame for the breakdown of Kissinger’s talks by its refusal to accept the most generous of Israel’s offers for a Sinai accord.
ISRAEL READY TO WORK FOR PEACE
The Israeli envoy told the meeting that Israel had offered Egypt two options–a sweeping territorial withdrawal returning the Sinai passes and oil fields in exchange for Egypt’s formal renunciation of its war option; or a more limited withdrawal in return for less far-reaching political concessions. Dinitz charged that at a certain point during the negotiations conducted by Kissinger, Egypt stopped negotiating and “started dictating.”
He said this was probably because Cairo recognized U.S. diplomatic difficulties in other parts of the world and thought the time was ripe to impose a settlement on Israel. “Egypt was more interested in winning public opinion in the U.S.” than in reaching an agreement with Israel Dinitz charged.
The Ambassador said that Israel remained ready to offer concessions and would continue to work for peace through the U.S. and through other channels. But he contended that the Geneva conference, if it is reconvened, cannot produce any meaningful solution of the Middle East conflict. He said that the combined power of the Arabs, together with that of the Soviet Union which is not “a calming influence” would create “a mini-United Nations” in Geneva at which Israel could not expect fair treatment.
Israel will continue to work for peace, “but not at the expense of its survival,” he told the audience. He reiterated that Israel alone cannot bear the full brunt of the peace initiative. Egypt, too, has to compromise and make concessions, he said. “Let them not frighten the world with the Russian option,” Dinitz declared, observing that even while Kissinger was conducting negotiations, Russian ships were unloading arms at Egyptian ports.
CONGRESS SUPPORTIVE OF ISRAEL
Abzug said that while there was concern in Congress over the breakdown of the negotiations, the mood was one of support for Israel. “It is intolerable to expect Congress to penalize Israel” for the breakdown, she said. Urging a national mobilization of support for Israel, she stated, “We have to do an educational job” because the Middle East is a major factor in American foreign policy.
Koch emphasized that support of Israel was in America’s national interest for reasons of security as well as moral imperatives. Referring to reports that Sen. George McGovern (D.S.D.) met in Beirut with PLO leader Yasir Arafat. Koch declared this is “a most shocking thing.” He told the audience to “remember who is your friend and who is your enemy.” adding that “There is no doubt that Congress is supportive of Israel.”
Rosenthal was critical of Kissinger’s policy in the Middle East, He charged that when Kissinger returned from the Middle East last Monday he met with 21 Congressmen and conveyed to them the impression that Israel’s intransigence was responsible for the failure of his mission.
Wolff noted, however, that when Kissinger appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee of which he is a member, the Secretary stated flatly that “the U.S. can never afford to let Israel go down the drain.” Wolff said that the Middle East battle lines have shifted from the Suez Canal to American shores because Egypt is attempting to win over American public opinion rather than reach a settlement with Israel.
Holtzman expressed concern over implications by the Administration that Israel is the culprit in the failure of the second-stage talks. “Our task is to remind the American people that the Arabs do not recognize the State of Israel” and to shatter the myth of the Palestinians who were exploited all these years by the Arabs for political purposes, she said.
NATURE OF NATIONAL CAMPAIGN
Rabbi Miller said that member’ organizations of the Presidents Conference would undertake a “national campaign to strengthen public understanding that the strategic interests of the United States are best served by providing Israel with the economic, military and political support necessary to deter Arab attack and keep alive the search for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
Rabbi Miller said the drive would include “a special effort to place responsibility for the breakdown of Secretary Kissinger’s Middle East peace mission where it belongs–on Egypt.” He added, “In this effort we will underscore the fact that Israel offered to give up her most valuable bargaining points…in exchange for a declaration of non-belligerency by Egypt, and it was Egypt that refused.