WASHINGTON (May. 16)
President Ford personally and publicly has reaffirmed that “there has not and will not be any erosion of American-Israel friendship” and emphasized that “our role in supporting Israel honors our own heritage.” In issuing this reassurance during an address to some 1000 persons attending the American Jewish Committee’s 70th annual meeting here last Thursday night, the President also declared:
“While America must and will pursue friendship with all nations, this will never be done at the expense of America’s commitment to Israel.” This statement evoked the loudest applause during his address. Ford affirmed that “Our commitment to Israel will meet the test of American, steadfastness and resolve. My Administration will not be found wanting.” He also stressed that America “will remain the ultimate guarantor of Israel’s freedom.”
Ford’s address, at the AJCommittee’s annual dinner, confirmed in effect the pledges made to Israel by Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger in the Chizuk Amuno Synagogue in Baltimore five nights before. The President, who received four standing ovations, was the second Chief Executive to appear at an AJCommittee function. President Lyndon B. Johnson attended the AJCommittee’s 60th anniversary meeting in 1966.
TO PRESS FOR ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL
While he emphasized his support to Israel, Ford also indicated his Administration would continue to press for Israeli withdrawal from territories it occupied in the Six-Day War as a means to achieve a peace settlement and that he does not favor funds for Israel beyond the $4.4 billion he has recommended for the 27-month period ending Sept. 30, 1977.
Israeli supporters in Congress believe the funds should be increased by a half billion dollars to take into account the three months between the end of the current fiscal year and the start of fiscal 1977. Legislation on the long-overdue foreign aid is facing another showdown in Congress this week.
“We appreciate Israel’s dilemma in moving towards peace,” Ford said with reference to the administered areas. “Israel is asked to relinquish territory–a concrete and essentially irreversible step–in return for basically intangible political measures but it is only willingness to dare the exchange of the tangible for the intangible that hostility can be ended and peace attained.”
On the funding, he said he favors aid to Israel of more than $4 billion in the two budgets he has submitted to Congress “because it is so clearly in the national security interest of the United State and so essential to preserve and promote peace in the Middle East.”
DINITZ OUTLINES ISRAEL’S POLICY
Following the President to the rostrum, Israel Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, after thanking Ford, Congress and the American people for their continuing support of Israel, pointedly alluded to two pillars of Israeli policy.
With the President listening intently, a few feet away, Dinitz observed that Israel’s independence began in the bills of Judaea and the streets of Jerusalem 4000 years ago, apparently in reference to Israel’s insistence on some territorial security and Jerusalem as its capital.
After four wars and 28 years of statehood, Israel “has not won peace because the Arabs have not acquiesced to the thesis of an independent existence of the Jewish State,” Dinitz emphasized. “This is the heart of the problem and the core of the issue,” he said, to applause.
WARMEST PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS
Ford’s appearance and speech were widely considered in and out of the media as having national political overtones in view of the taut Presidential primaries taking place and the national election to come. But a highly-placed Israeli Embassy officer, when asked for his opinion, declared that his feeling was only that the address was “the warmest a President has ever made about Israel.”
The President was introduced by Max Fisher, the Detroit industrialist who is honorary chairman of the AJCommittee’s National Executive Council and an intimate friend and counselor to the President. Lawrence Cardinal Sheehan, Archbishop of Baltimore, and Clarence Mitchell, director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, were other speakers. The guests included ambassadors and leaders of a dozen foreign countries and high officials of the U.S. government.