WASHINGTON (Mar. 21)
President Ford said Friday that a “dividend” of “the trust that Israel and the Arabs have in the United States” was the decision of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to abrogate the Egyptian-Soviet friendship treaty and he added the action would be “responded to by the United States economically and otherwise.”
Ford defended his foreign policy at a meeting at the White House with a group of newspaper editors. He did not explain what he meant by “otherwise” but he is seeking Congressional approval for the sale to Egypt of six C-130 transport planes. The plan has evoked strong opposition from Israel, Israeli supporters in Congress and by American Jewish organizations. The opposition is not to the transfer of the transport planes but over fears that it is a first step towards a U.S. policy of supplying weapons to Egypt.
The President’s comments during a question-and-answer session with members of the National Newspaper Association were his first in public on Sadat’s move to renounce the 1971 treaty with the USSR, for 20 years Egypt’s chief arms supplier.
Declaring that the U.S. “has played a very major role in the Middle East,” Ford said, “we achieved–working with Israel on the one hand and with Egypt on the other–a great breakthrough” with the second Sinai interim agreement. He said this was “the second step in trying to hold peace in that area, a very volatile, complex complicated area.”
Ford said the effect of the Sadat action was that Sadat “is no longer dependent on the Soviet Union for any military hardware. That is a tremendous change for the better. In our opinion, and we have, of course, hope and trust that the move of cutting off relations, in effect, with the Soviet Union will be responded to by the United States government in any efforts that we can make, economically and otherwise.”
MEANS OF SOOTHING ISRAEL
No action is expected by the Ford Administration toward starting a weapons supply program for Egypt until after the Senate votes on the foreign aid appropriations bill and until a Senate-House conference acts on the authorization measures for foreign aid which include funding for the transitional quarter between June 30 and Oct. 1 of 25 percent of appropriations for all countries receiving aid, including Israel and Egypt.
Observers here said the net effect of Congressional action in approving the transitional funding would be to give the Ford Administration a means of soothing Israel by Ford not vetoing the expanded aid bill and for supporters of Israel in Congress to approve the start of a military supply relationship between the U.S. and Egypt.
The observers said that goal would be initiated by Congress dropping its opposition to the transfer of the transport planes to Egypt on a government-to-government basis. There have been suggestions in Congress that the transfer be made on a purely commercial basis by the manufacturer selling the transport planes to Egypt without government involvement.