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Reactions to the Debate

President Ford’s assertions on the Arab boycott brought swift promises of action today from the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce and bitter denunciations of him from angered and amazed Congressional proponents of tough anti-boycott legislation. The critics described Ford’s claims on anti-boycott measures as “incredible,” “astounding” and “a gross distortion of the truth.”

The White House disclosed it would issue a statement and an “Executive Order” later today in the wake of the President’s statement last night that he was going to have the Department “disclose those companies that have participated in the Arab boycott.” The President said “This is something we can do. The Congress failed to do it, and we intend to do it.”

A Commerce Department spokesman, however advised the media that it will not release any names of companies which have aided in the Arab boycott but that the Department at a later date will “make public boycott reports that we receive in the future and these reports will have information as to whether the business is complying with the boycott request.”

CHARGES GROSS DISTORTION

Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D.NY), who with Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D.NY) had co-authored tough anti-boycott measures in the still-born Export Administration Act, charged that Ford’s statement about the act was “a gross distortion of the truth.” Rosenthal said that “the President and his Administration fought with every weapon they have to oppose anti-boycott legislation, including the provisions in the tax bill which he is now trying to take credit for.”

“An incredible blunder.” was the way the President’s anti-boycott remarks were described by Rep. John Moss (D.Cal.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight that caused a subpoena to be issued against former Commerce Secretary Rogers Morton for refusing to disclose to Congress the names of companies in the boycott. Moss declared that Ford “used” Morton to block the subcommittee from getting Arab boycott reports until a subpoena was issued for him.

A joint statement by Sen. William Proxmire (D.Wis.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which handled the Export Administration Act legislation, and Sen. Harrison Williams (D. NJ), a co-author of the anti-boycott provision in the measure, charged Ford “seriously misled the American people” when he “tried to claim” that he backed measures to curb the Arab boycott.

The two Senators said that “the disclosure of compliance will be of little comfort to Israel as long as the boycott continues. It is time to break the boycott by strong legislation.” They also said that “the White House language” proposed by the Administration for the export act was “rejected by the major American Jewish organizations as being clearly unresponsive to the problem.” The White House language, they said, was “a transparent public relations effort to avoid taking the blame for killing the boycott bill.”

CRITICIZED ON ISRAEL AID CLAIMS

Ford also was criticized at the Capitol on his claims about the Egyptian-Israeli Sinai agreement being put in the public domain and on foreign aid to Israel. Sen. Clifford Case (R.NJ) was recalled as the leader in the drive to have the Sinai agreements made available to the Congress and that it was Sen. Frank Church (D, Idaho) who moved to have them declassified for public knowledge.

It also was recalled that 76 Senators wrote Ford last May to get “a reluctant President” to provide foreign aid for Israel during the time the Administration was engaged in a “reassessment” of its Mideast policy. Congressmen also noted the President’s fight against “transitional quarter” funding for Israel in the foreign aid appropriations between the fiscal years 1976 and 1977. A compromise of $275 million for Israel was achieved after Congress had recommended $550 million and Ford favored no funds at all.

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