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Special to the JTA Ford Discusses Issues with 150 Jewish Community Leaders

President Ford sought to explain to a group of over 150 Jewish community leaders today why his Administration sells arms to Saudi Arabia, what it intends to do to increase the rate of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union and how it is combatting the Arab boycott. He made his remarks in response to questions from rabbis and lay leaders during a closed-door meeting at the Center for Holocaust Studies of the Yeshiva of Flatbush after addressing about 3000 persons outside the school.

According to an observer at the meeting from which the press was excluded, Ford spoke to an audience that represented the entire spectrum of the Jewish community in Flatbush, including Hasidic and other Orthodox rabbis and rabbis and members of local Conservative, Reform and Sephardic congregations.

The observer informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that, when asked about the extensive U.S. arms deals, with Saudi Arabia, Ford replied that the U.S. was acting “in a responsible way.” He declared that “The Ford Administration can sell arms to allies that are Arab nations. We are better served by the U.S. selling them arms than another country selling them arms. By so doing we can control the utilization of such arms since we have the capability of stopping them.”

With respect to Soviet Jewry, Ford acknowledged that the rate of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union has declined from 35,000 to 12,000 a year and intimated that this was the result of a break-down in communications between Washington and Moscow because of the restrictions imposed by the Jackson-Vanik and Stevenson amendments to the Trade Reform Act. “We must do better in terms of Soviet Jewish emigration.” Ford stated, according to the observer.

The President affirmed’ “As soon as possible I will work with the legislators to change, amend and enact legislation which up till now has caused some problems.” He added, “We must strengthen Israel not only with money and arms but also with people who are fully committed to the preservation of Israel and who will do so through their immigration to Israel.”

WILL NOT TOLERATE OIL EMBARGO

Questioned about a possible future Arab oil boycott, Ford declared. “If there is a boycott I will not tolerate it.” But, he added, according to JTA’s informant, there will not be another Arab oil embargo because “there will not be another war in the Middle East.”

On the subject of the Arab boycott of American firms doing business with Israel, Ford referred to his order last week to the Commerce Department to release, in the future, the names of U.S. companies that comply with Arab boycott demands. He said any violation of his order would result in action and claimed that his Administration is “the only one to have taken positive action in the area of the boycott.” Asked why he had not made his order retroactive, Ford replied that he could not change the rules in the middle of the game.

On the subject of peace negotiations, Ford declared that “The PLO will not be a participant in any future conference on peace in the Middle East.” He said also there was an international movement toward action against terrorism and that the U.S. was playing a role in that area.

Ford told his audience, which included yeshiva heads, that he was dedicated to aiding non-public schools and to their perpetuation and expansion because competition with public schools was healthy. He said he would do his best, within Constitutional limits, to seek legislation in such areas as tax assistance and tax credits for non-public schools and non-public school parents.

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