WASHINGTON (May. 23)
More than a dozen national and local Jewish communal leaders attended an unprecedented top-level briefing at the Pentagon Thursday on the U.S. defense establishment and Israeli-American military relations, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned.
The approximately two-hour briefing, said to have originated with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, included remarks from Rumsfeld himself; Gen. George S. Brown, chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. David Jones, Chief of Staff of the Air Force; Admiral James Holloway, naval operations chief; and army Secretary Martin Hoffman.
Several of those who attended said a candid discussion took place on the nation’s overall strategic situation, comparisons of Soviet-American military strength and technology, and on U.S. military support for Israel. The Pentagon authorities were said to have reflected the general view that Israel cannot be militarily strong without a comparably strong U.S. defense.
BASED ON FORD’S REASSURANCES
Their approach to U.S.-Israel relations appeared to be based on President Ford’s reassurances to Israel of continued U.S. support in his address to the American Jewish Committee last week. The military personnel were familiar with the details of the address.
Jones was reported to have indicated that the Air Force has developed radar equipment that can from present U.S. facilities in the Mediterranean area identify planes flying anywhere in the Middle East and that the U.S. in developing air refueling facilities that can enable aircraft to carry out supply missions over vast areas.
Brown was said to have indicated that while Israel is not regarded as a U.S. military ally, the U.S. may use Israeli territory for American military forces in the event other Mediterranean bases are closed to Americans.
An official U.S. source acknowledged to the JTA that increased contact between the Pentagon and Jewish communal leaders was deemed important in view of the problems the U.S. defense establishment faces, and that since this obviously includes the Middle East, the Jewish leadership should be aware of them.
APPRECIATION TO PENTAGON OFFICIALS
While Jewish leaders did not previously have an exclusive meeting of this kind with Pentagon authorities, individual Jewish organizational representatives have been included in the past in general briefings. It was noted that perhaps the only previous all-Jewish gathering at the Pentagon was the one arranged by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger after Brown’s remarks about Jews and Israel in a Duke University speech 19 months ago. Brown later apologized. That issue did not arise Thursday.
Several of those attending the briefing expressed appreciation to the Pentagon officials for the opportunity to exchange views on the military circumstances. Invitations for the briefing were believed to have been made by telephone earlier in the week. One of those interviewed by JTA indicated that the purpose of the briefing may have been to obtain Jewish support for the defense establishment’s need’s or because this is the “season of Presidential primaries,” or both. However, all those interviewed volunteered appreciation to the authorities for their invitation.
Those attending the briefing included Frank Lautenberg, Lawrence Peirez and Rose Matzkin of New York; Judge Paul Ribner, Leonard Goldfine and Ronald Rubin of Philadelphia; Melvin Dubinsky of St. Louis; Marvin Stone and Don Lowitz of Chicago; and Marilyn Branfman and Hyman Bookbinder of Washington.