Congressional Approval of U.S. Presence in Sinai Now Requires Funding and Selection of Personnel

With Congress having approved the presence of American technicians in the Sinai passes, two major steps must now be taken in the process of stationing up to 200 technicians to monitor the warning stations between Israel and Egypt. One involves Congressional approval of funding the operation. In permitting the stationing of the technicians in the passes, Congress did not act on any funds for them. The other step is the Administration’s selection of personnel and keeping them supplied in the Sinai desert.

Inquiries by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the White House, the State Department and the Capitol indicated that both steps are in their earliest stages, The Administration probably will send to Congress toward the end of this month a legislative proposal for funds. Congress is required to authorize the expenditures and to appropriate the funds in separate legislative actions.

Undersecretary of State Joseph Sisco had indicated to Congress earlier this month that about $10 million would be required for the project’s first year and $7 million annually thereafter. In a CBS television interview last Friday he said that he did not think the American technicians would go to the Sinai until mid-March. This would be in keeping with the timetable agreed upon by Egypt and Israel in Geneva for implementing the second Sinai accord.

The second step involves selection of the personnel and responsibility for them. The State Department has been instructed by President Ford to organize, recruit, equip and transport the 200 Americans to their positions in Sinai. It is uncertain whether they will be sought through a contracting company or recruited from electronic companies which manufacture the equipment which will be used, or by a public call for technicians.

DECISIVE VOTES FOR SINAI APPROVAL

By a decisive margin, 70-18, the Senate approved last Thursday night the stationing of up to 200 civilian technicians to man surveillance stations in the Sinai passes, completing Congressional action on the measure, an essential component of the second Sinai interim accord. The Senate vote came after two days of debate during which a series of crippling amendments were defeated before the Senate endorsed the resolution.

The Senate version was identical to one approved by the House last Wednesday night by a vote of 341-69. Israel had made its approval of the new interim accord contingent on Congressional endorsement of the technicians. Shortly before the Senate voted its approval. President Ford told a press conference that the technicians would definitely be civilians, and that recruiting would begin soon. He explicitly ruled out military people for the Sinai object.

LIMITATIONS ON AGREEMENT

The Senate resolution, like that of the House, specified that approval of the technicians did not commit the United States to any other assurances to either Israel or Egypt, in connection with the new accord. The exact wording of that clause was that approval of the technicians “does not signify approval of the Congress of any other agreement, undertaking or commitment made by the Executive branch.”

The practical meaning of that passage was that the Ford Administration’s undertakings to Egypt and Israel are, in the view of Congress, only “intentions” of President Ford and are not “binding” on the United States. The resolution also specifies that the technicians must be withdrawn if fighting breaks out between Egypt and Israel, or if Congress decides their monitoring role is no longer necessary.

The resolution also declared that Congress was not giving to Ford any additional authority to use military forces overseas than he now has on a limited basis under the War Powers Act.

ISRAEL SIGNS PROTOCOL

(In Jerusalem last Friday, Israel placed its full signature on the protocol initially approved last month between Israel and Egypt in Geneva and thus the second Sinai interim accord between the two countries was put into effect. Egypt had previously signed the document in Geneva, but Israel only initialed the protocol, postponing a full signing until Congress acted.

Avraham Kidron, Foreign Ministry director and Gen. Herzl Shaffir, who was part of the Israeli negotiating team in Geneva, signed the protocol for Israel. Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, commander of UN forces in the Middle East, welcomed the Israeli officials and expressed satisfaction that the accord had finally been completed. Afterwards he left for Cairo to deliver the signed protocol to the Egyptian government.)

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