Not the Money, but the Principle Prompted Rabin to Criticize the U.S.

Concern over the general drift of U.S.-Israel relations rather than over the specific $60 million prompted Premier Yitzhak Rabin to take issue with the U.S. Administration yesterday for short-changing Israel in its foreign aid bill, informed sources here told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today.

The Premier sharply criticized the Ford Administration at his Cabinet meeting for failing to keep its pledge to ask Congress for $2.3 billion in aid for Israel. The Administration has asked for $2,240 billion, Rabin also pointed out that whereas the pledge called for the aid as two-thirds grant and one third loan, the Administration asked for the larger part as a loan, there by increasing the burden for the Israeli taxpayer.

Informed sources here said the Administration’s pledges were “concluded” during September, having been negotiated by Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger during his August shuttle in the region. The Premier was worried, the sources said, that the Administration’s reneging on the pledge–albeit to a relatively small degree–could presage failure to honor other, more important, commitments undertaken by Washington as part of the interim agreement package.

POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS PRECEDENT

“It’s not the money ($60 million less) but the principle that is at stake,” one top source explained. The source indicated that there was not much realistic hope of reversing the Administration’s decision. But Rabin fell, nevertheless, that Israel could not let the episode pass without objection, since that could set a potentially dangerous precedent of resigned subservience which could boomerang later.

The sources here were especially perturbed by the timing of the Administration move–during the visit by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat–and by its broader context: Washington’s pointed failure to take issue with Sadat’s anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish statements. Jerusalem has been disappointed, though not realistically shocked by these statements. There has been grief and shock though at Washington’s deliberate and unswerving efforts to play down the statements.

Regarding the aid bill, while Egypt’s share is of much smaller substance, because there is no military aid yet there has been no Administration effort to pare it down or penny-pinch, and this, too, is a source of chagrin for the Israelis, who see their own economic aid package whittled down, Egypt will receive some $200 million worth of food under the “PL 480″ program but that, unlike Israel’s much smaller quantity of food aid, is not reckoned by the Administration as part of Egypt’s overall economic aid figure of $760 million.

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