WASHINGTON (Sep. 18)
Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisco told a Congressional committee today that the United States has not given Israel “a guarantee” of oil supplies in the event of an Arab embargo, said the U.S. was “not precluded” from contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization although there was no intention to make such contacts “on a politically significant level,” and indicated that the “essence” of America’s influence on Israel was its military and economic support to that country.
Sisco made those remarks in statements and replies to questions before the House International Affairs Committee, which is conducting hearings on U.S. commitments made in connection with the Israeli-Egyptian interim agreement in Sinai signed last month including the presence of American technicians in Sinai.
Rep, Thomas Morgan (D.Pa.), committee chairman, said a resolution on the American presence would be drafted tomorrow and the House would vote next week. He said he expected the Senate to vote on its own resolution also next week. The interim accord cannot be put into effect before Congress approves the American commitments.
Sisco testified before the International Relations Committee in closed session yesterday. The committee voted 11-7 to make today’s session public over the objections of its chairman.
ASSISTING IS NOT GUARANTEEING
On the matter of oil, the Undersecretary of State said there was no U.S. guarantee in the event of an Arab embargo against either Israel or the U.S. or both countries. “It is one thing to assist in making available (oil) for purchase and a guarantee. There is a distinction.” Sisco told the committee.
He said the American undertaking to Israel refers to “assisting to purchase in various contingencies” in which the U.S. can help Israel buy oil, adding “I don’t want to be more specific than that.” He added, however, that the formula worked out between the U.S. and Israel is the same as the International Energy Agency (IEA) formula for oil consuming nations in an emergency.
Sisco said all matters relating to U.S. assistance to Israel in obtaining oil were covered by the Ford Administration’s aid package to Israel, However, he declined to give specific figures because the President has not yet made a final decision.
According to the text of the secret U.S.-Israel memorandum, disclosed in the press this week, the U.S. “will promptly make oil available for purchase by Israel” if that country is unable to purchase its oil needs, In case of an oil embargo, the memorandum states that the IEA conservation and allocation formula would be applied by the U.S.
Sisco’s remarks on the PLO were in response to Rep, Paul Findley (R.Ill.), who said. “It is a mistake” for the U.S. to limit its flexibility by refusing to negotiate with the PLO. Sisco said. “We are not precluded on contacts” and disclosed that “over the years on a lower level, technical contacts have been made but no political contacts on politically significant levels” and there is “no intention such contacts will be made.”
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger disclosed earlier this week that the U.S. had given Israel a written undertaking that it would not recognize or deal with the PLO without Israel’s approval as long as the PLO refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
ESSENCE OF U.S. INFLUENCE
Findley and Rep, Lee Hamilton (D.Ind.) pressed Sisco on “what leverage” the U.S. has on Israel to progress toward a settlement with the Arabs, Sisco said America’s close relationship with Israel is a principal core of its undertaking in Sinai and the “essence of our influence” is U.S. military and economic support of Israel. Hamilton remarked that the interim accord still leaves Israel in occupation of 87 percent of the Sinai and will cost the U.S. $4 billion to implement which, he noted, is “mighty expensive real estate.”
Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D.NY) urged that the interim agreement be put into effect as soon as possible, saying “it is dangerous to delay” because President Anwar Sadat of Egypt is under “violent” attack and Premier Yitzhak Rabin of Israel is under “vehement” attack.
Bingham also observed that “Congress is not bound” by the provisions of the U.S.-Israel memorandum which, he said, conveys “nothing more” than that the Administration will view them sympathetically. Hamilton claimed that the U.S. was doing all the giving and Israel is not giving anything.
Meanwhile, the White House said that President Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger were due to meet late this afternoon with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. It is expected that a principal topic will be the Soviet attitude toward Kissinger’s Middle East diplomacy.