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Israel Assessing Significance of Ford’s Reshuffle of Administration

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Government officials and unofficial observers agreed today that Israel did not necessarily stand to gain from the changes in the Ford Administration announced over the week-end, but neither was it clear that Israel would lose anything in its relations with the U.S. as a result of President Ford’s reshuffling at the top of his Administration.

Political sources said that for the short run at least, Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger would continue to be the key figure in the major White House decisions on the Middle East and foreign policy generally, even though he will no longer be chairman of the National Security Council.

Observers tended to play down the importance of Ford’s dismissal of Defense Secretary James R, Schlesinger and his nomination of Donald Rumsfeld to replace him. The Defense Department has had relatively little to say in the formulation of overall Mideast policy. But many Israeli officials were privately critical of Schlesinger’s opposition to the sale of long-range Pershing missiles to Israel.

PROBLEMS OF DETENTE, MIDEAST MULLED

Nevertheless, some sources expressed misgivings that the elevation of Rumsfeld to the top defense post could lead to a further deterioration of Israel’s relations with the Pentagon, Rumsfeld, the White House Chief of Staff, is held responsible by many Israelis for Ford’s sharp letter to Premier Yitzhak Rabin last March rebuking him for refusing to accept the terms then offered by Egypt for a second interim agreement in Sinai.

Some observers felt that the firing of Schlesinger represented a victory for Kissinger’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union. While Israel does not oppose detente in principle, the Ford-Kissinger desire not to offend Moscow has been, in Israel’s view, detrimental to the struggle of Soviet Jewry for emigration rights, Kissinger was the Administration’s chief spokesman against the Jackson-Vanik amendments to the U.S, Trade Reform Act, Schlesinger, on the other hand, was always wary of detente and seemed to corroborate the Israeli view that the Russians were getting more than they gave.

Kissinger’s differences with Schlesinger on the Middle East were no secret. The Pentagon complained on the Secretary’s return from the region in September that it had not been fully briefed on the details of the Sinai accord. Schlesinger was particularly miffed at not having been consulted in advance about Kissinger’s promise to give sympathetic consideration to Israel’s re quest for Pershings

Kissinger claimed that the Pentagon in fact knew since August, 1974 of Israel’s interest in that weapon and accused the Defense Department of making statements to the press that it had never raised in government forums.

What Israelis seem to regret most about the events of the past few days is Vice-President Nelson A. Rockefeller’s announcement that he would not seek re-election on the Ford ticket in 1976, Rockefeller is regarded here as a tried and true friend of Israel and there is considerable interest in whom Ford chooses as a running mate next year.

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