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Kissinger; Aid to Israel is ‘keystone’ of U.S. Policy in the Middle East

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Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, calling for $2.240 billion in military and economic aid in loans and credits to Israel, said today “the keystone of our policy in the Middle East has always rested on the ability of Israel to persevere in its own defense.”

“That ability is currently undergoing its most strenuous test, and, despite what we here in the United States would consider to be extremely stringent domestic austerity measures, it is clear that Israel must have both substantial economic and substantial military assistance,” he said.

Appearing before the House International Relations Committee, Kissinger opened the Administration’s appeal for a $4.7 billion aid program for the current fiscal year ending next June 30 as the overall U.S. aid program of which 70 percent is for Middle East countries–Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. “Our program for Israel,” Kissinger said, “is aimed at permitting both defensive strength and economic health. Our new friendship for Egypt does not in any way undermine our traditional friendship for Israel.”

CASE FOR EGYPT ‘EQUALLY STRONG’

Declaring that the U.S. policy is to further “all constructive forces” in the Middle East, to “attain a durable settlement,” including “the survival of Israel as a state,” Kissinger said, “we must also find the means to demonstrate and nurture our growing friendship for Israel’s neighbor, Egypt.” Describing the case for Egypt as “equally strong,” he said that the United States “can and should assist Egypt” on major economic problems and “encourage Egypts efforts toward closer relations with the West.”

Kissinger denied that U.S. assistance in the Middle East is “the price of the recently-concluded Sinai agreement.” He said that without an agreement, U.S. interests would “still have required an on-going program of comparable magnitude.” He described the “additional burden of U.S. assistance” as “modest” and infinitely less” than the cost of another war.

CORRECTS BUREAUCRATIC MISTAKE

Sharply questioned by Committee members after his testimony, Kissinger corrected what he called a “bureaucratic mistake” with respect to the proportion between military grants and credits for Israel, and defended the Administration’s overall aid program to the Middle East at a time of economic recession at home on grounds that “turmoil in the Middle East would be infinitely more costly than this aid program.”

Kissinger emphasized that the military aid to Israel was based on State and Defense Department estimates of that country’s needs over the next 10 years. He made the latter point when Rep. Pierre DuPont (R. Del,) observed that Israel was stronger than any of its Arab neighbors.

When Rep. Clement Zablocki (D. Wisc.) questioned why the U.S. should relieve Israel of up to one-third of its military assistance costs, Kissinger said that actually up to $1.250 billion–or half rather than one-third of the $2.240 billion proposed for Israel–would be in the form of grants. He said the lower figure was “a bureaucratic mistake.”

Reports circulating among Committee members indicated, however, that Israel expected two-thirds of the military assistance in the form of grants. With respect to economic aid to Israel amounting to $740 million, $500 million will be in grants and $240 million in credits. Kissinger said the recommendations were “based on the assumption that Israel may have difficulties to repay it if it had to meet these large sums.”

ISRAEL WILL GET THE $60 MILLION

The Secretary also explained that Israel would in fact be receiving the $60 million that Premier Yitzhak Rabin claimed earlier this week was reneged on by Washington. He said $20 million of that sum would be in the form of aid to resettle Soviet Jewish immigrants; $15 million in the food-for-peace program; and $25 million in housing guarantees. Kissinger said that no decision has been taken and none is imminent on the sale of long-range Pershing missiles to Israel.

Citing America’s “historic friendship with Jordan” as one reason why the Administration refuses to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Kissinger reiterated the Administration’s position that it could not recognize the PLO unless the latter accepted Security Council Resolution 242 and recognized Israel’s right to exist. The PLO must do this “before we can believe there is a serious basis of discussion; even after that we have to determine what is the basis of moderation.”

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