WASHINGTON (Sep. 28)
Congress will require at least another week and perhaps longer before it decides what form the joint House-Senate resolution will be adopted on the Sinai accord, a canvas by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency among informed Capitol sources indicated this weekend.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which questioned Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger for three hours late Thursday behind closed doors, will meet in executive session again tomorrow and indicated it will hold another public hearing before it begins to draft its resolution.
The House International Relations Committee is also preoccupied with the form of its resolution. Ultimately, the drafts to be voted by the two chambers must be identical before their results can be presented to the President as a joint resolution.
After his long session Thursday, Kissinger described himself as “melancholy,” apparently in view of the Senate’s continued discussions on the extent of the Administration commitments both to Egypt and Israel, besides the stationing of up to 200 American technicians between the lines of Egypt and Israel in Sinai.
DENY ACCORD ENDANGERED
The State Department denied Friday that the delay in Congressional action is endangering the Sinai accord. “No, not at this point,” spokesman Robert Anderson said in response to a question. To his knowledge, he said, neither Egypt nor Israel has voiced concern. Anderson said that the U.S. is committed to help Egypt acquire an early warning system but said there is no implied commitment by the U.S. to sell arms to Egypt. This was in connection with President Ford’s reported remarks in Los Angeles that the U.S. would consider selling arms to Egypt.
Ron Nessen, White House press secretary, said Friday that the U.S. will consider a request from Egypt for military equipment. But Nessen said the U.S. had not made a commitment to supply Egypt with arms as part of the second Sinai accord, only to “give consideration” to any Egyptian request.
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt is scheduled to visit the U.S. late in October, which was considered a likely occasion for some action by the Administration. Observers here noted, however, that any sale of military equipment totalling more than $25 million must be submitted to Congress, posing the possibility of Congressional opposition if such a sale was considered dangerous to Israel’s security.
A contradiction seemed to appear in the State Department’s position on its memorandum to Israel. According to unofficial but reliable reports, Morton Leigh, its legal advisor, informed the House committee by letter that the U.S.-Israeli memorandum associated with Kissinger’s mediation is a “binding agreement.” In the international view, a Senate specialist told JTA, an executive agreement, such as the memorandum Leigh says it is, is as legally binding as a treaty. The Leigh communication was seen as bolstering Israel’s position for future aid from the U.S.
On the other hand, the Kissinger position, as described by Congressional sources, is tending to minimize the provisions of the memorandum to avert embarrassment to Sadat, Some Congressional sources look upon the Israeli-American memorandum as lacking practical meaning. One observed that “in the end, Congress must vote the money and nothing is binding until it does.” Another saw the provisions as being largely of a consultative nature which gives Washington plenty of room to bargain or even wriggle out.
THE PRESENT LINEUP
The present lineup within the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appears to find about half of its 16 members, perhaps a alight majority, insisting on making public through the joint resolution the exact language of the U.S. commitments both to Egypt and Israel and, as one source put it, “certification of the accuracy by the Administration.”
Three or four Senators, loyal to the President’s position, want nothing in the resolution except approval of the American presence. A compromise is understood to be sought by Sen. Clifford Case (R.NJ) for an adequate gist of the agreements that would accurately reflect them without disclosure to avert possible adverse impact on either Israel or the Arabs. A general feeling within the committee, it was said, is that the American public must know what the commitments are to avert any misunderstanding later.
Even after the pertinent committees in the House and Senate adopt a joint resolution it is expected that amendments will be offered during the debates. Thus, instead of a Congressional decision in two weeks that Ford had asked the Congressional leadership to make on Sept. 4, a few hours after Kissinger returned from the Middle East, it is now seen as taking up to six weeks.
Meanwhile, the trend in the mail at the Capitol and the White House on the technicians has changed considerably. While the telegrams and letters remain relatively light for a major subject, the White House told JTA Friday that since Sept. I it has received 2802 communications. Of these 1570 oppose the U.S. presence and 1179 favor it. Fifty-three commented without taking a position. Early this month the ratio ran five and six to one against Americans in Sinai.