NEW YORK (Oct. 7)
President Ford and Gov. Jimmy Carter both laid heavy stress on U.S. support for Israel in their second nationally televised debate last night from San Francisco devoted to American foreign policy and national defense. Ford produced the only “hard” news during the 90-minute broadcast when he said “I am going to announce tomorrow that the Department of Commerce will disclose those companies that have participated in the Arab boycott.”
Carter, moments before, had denounced the boycott, declaring “it’s a matter of morality,” not a matter of trade or diplomacy and that “it’s a disgrace” that the Ford Administration “has blocked the passage of legislation that would have revealed by law every instance of the boycott and it would have prevented the boycott from continuing.” (See separate story for reaction.)
The spirited exchange between the two Presidential candidates over the Middle East included Carter’s charge that the bulk of U.S. arms sales in that region now goes to the Arab countries and Ford’s rejoinder that since he became President Israel received over $4 billion in military hardware from the U.S. and 45 percent of all the U.S. military and economic assistance extended to that country in the 27 years of its independence.
Carter took an unequivocally tough stand against an Arab oil embargo threat which, he said he would consider as “an economic declaration of war” to which he would “respond instantly and in kind.” He accused the Ford Administration of almost bringing the Israelis “to their knees after the Yom Kippur War by the so-called reassessment of our relations to Israel.” He charged “We in effect tried to make Israel the scapegoat for the problems in the Middle East and in this weakened our relationship with Israel a great deal and put a cloud on the total commitment that our people feel toward the Israelis.”
FORD CITES RABIN
Ford countered later in the debate by stating that “Just recently President (sic) Rabin said that our relations were never better.” He also cited the Israeli leader to support his contention that the U.S. now enjoys a stronger position in the Middle East than the Soviet Union.
“A few months ago–or I should say two years ago–the Soviet Union looked like they had continued strength in the Middle East. Today, according to Prime Minister Rabin, the Soviet Union is weaker in the Middle East than they have been in many years,” Ford said.
He added, “The facts are the Soviet Union relationship with Egypt is at a low level. The Soviet Union relationship with Syria is at a very low point. The United States today, according to Prime Minister Rabin of Israel, is at a peak in its influence and power in the Middle East.”
SAYS FORD YIELDED ON BOYCOTT
Neither candidate discussed any substantive issues related to the Middle East conflict apart from the Arab boycott. Carter charged that “The Arabs have put pressure on Mr. Ford, and he’s yielded, and has permitted a boycott by the Arab countries of American businesses who trade with Israel or who have American Jews owning or taking part in the management of American companies. His own Secretary of Commerce (former Secretary of Commerce Rogers C.B.Morton) had to be subpoenaed by the Congress to reveal the names of businesses who were subject to this boycott. They didn’t volunteer the information. He had to be subpoenaed.”
Carter also said that the boycott, now aimed at “people in this country who happen to be Jews” might some day be directed by a foreign country against Catholics or Baptists.
Ford, calling Carter “inaccurate,” said that in November, 1975 “I was the first President to order the executive branch to take action, affirmative action, through the Department of Commerce and other Cabinet departments to make certain that no American businessman or business organization should discriminate against Jews because of an Arab boycott. And I might add that my Administration–and I’m very proud of it–is the first Administration that has taken an anti-trust action against companies in this country that have allegedly cooperated with the Arab boycott.”
The President noted that “Just on Monday” he signed a tax bill that included an amendment “that would prevent companies in the United States from taking a tax deduction if they in any way whatsoever cooperated with the Arab boycott.”
At that point, Ford announced that he would order the Department of Commerce to disclose the names of companies complying with the boycott. He said he was taking that executive action because Congress had failed to take action before adjournment last week on the Export Administration Act extension bill that contained strong anti-boycott measures. Many Washington observers have said the measure died because of White House pressure and delaying tactics by Administration supporters in the Senate.
ON MIDEAST ARMS SHIPMENTS
On the matter of arms shipments to the Middle East, Carter said: “Under the last Democratic Administration 60 percent of all weapons that went into the Middle East were for Israel. Nowadays, 75 percent went to Israel before. Now 60 percent goes to the Arab countries and this does not include Iran. If you include Iran in our present shipment of weapons to the Middle East, only 20 percent goes to Israel.
“This is a deviation from idealism; it’s a deviation from a commitment to our major ally in the Middle East which is Israel; it’s yielding to economic pressure on the part of the Arabs on the oil issue, and it’s also a tremendous indication that under the Ford Administration we have not addressed the energy policy adequately….It would have been inconceivable 10 or 15 years ago for us to be brought to our knees with an Arab oil embargo. But it was done three years ago and they’re still putting pressure on us from the Arab countries to our discredit around the world.”
ADMINISTRATION ACHIEVEMENTS CITED
Ford replied: “Gov. Carter apparently doesn’t realize that since I’ve been President we have sold to the Israelis over $4 billion in military hardware. We have made available to the Israelis over 45 percent of the total economic and military aid since the establishment of Israel 27 years ago So the Ford Administration has done a good job in helping our good ally, Israel and we’re dedicated to the survival and security of Israel.”
Ford defended U.S. arms sales to Iran and Saudi Arabia. He said that “In 1973 when there was an oil embargo, Iran did not participate. Iran continued to sell oil to the United States. I believe that it’s in our interest and in the interest of Israel and Iran and Saudi Arabia for the United States to continue to sell arms to those countries. It’s for their security as well as ours.”
Ford cited the second Sinai interim agreement between Israel and Egypt as one of the major achievements of his Administration and denied that secrecy had surrounded it. “After the United States took the initiative in working with Israel and Egypt and achieving the Sinai II agreement–and I’m proud to say that not a single Egyptian or Israeli soldier has lost his life since the signing of the Sinai agreement. But at the same time that I submitted the Sinai agreement to the Congress of the United States, I submitted every single document that was applicable to the Sinai II agreement. It was the most complete documentation by any President of any agreement signed by a President of the United States.”