WASHINGTON (Oct. 17)
President Ford disclosed to about 30 editors of American Jewish newspapers at an unprecedented 35-minute questions-and-answer session in the White House Thursday afternoon that two of the four weapons systems he agreed last week to provide to Israel “have not yet been delivered to our own forces.” He said that the systems are “very sophisticated in their application and development” and that “it may take some time” before they are actually turned over to Israel.
The President added. “I hope this development will lead more to deterrence than to utilization for war” and that he also hoped “both sides” would realize this, a reference to suggestions from his questioners that Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, might now request similar weapons. Ford said he did not believe any significant requests have been made by other countries for such systems and observed that “they could buy them elsewhere.” He did not amplify that remark.
FORD SCRUTINIZED WEAPONS LIST
The President told the editors that “The list of weapons requested by Israel is a list gone over by me personally and is in the process of implementation by the Department of Defense.” Asked if letters of notification of the transfer of equipment will go to Congress during its current recess or be delayed until after the new Congress convenes in January, Ford replied, “We will certainly do what is required” under the relationship between Congress and the Executive branch.
The arms agreement with Israel which has aroused criticism from as yet unidentified sources at the Pentagon and the State Department was one of a variety of topics for the President’s comments in the Blue Room of the White House.
The President was introduced by Max Fisher of Detroit, an industrialist and national Jewish leader who is chairman of the “People for Ford Committee.” He addressed the editors briefly and then took questions for about 35 minutes. Afterwards, the President mingled with the editors and answered several other questions.
OUTLINES GROUND RULES
He pledged that his “ground rules” for dealing with Israel and the Middle East conflict were “no imposed solution, no insistence on one-sided concessions,” the “closest consultation” with Israel and “very substantial military and economic aid” to that country. Ford stressed that “any settlement in the Middle East should come in direct negotiations” between Israel and the Arabs and that a solution by the U.S. and the Soviet Union “is not the right way.”
The President was asked whether U.S. support for Israel is “a special case and exception within a general American posture of withdrawal in foreign affairs.” He replied that it was not an exception but “a part of a global strategy to achieve or to maintain peace on a global basis and the support of Israel is an integral part of achieving a permanent and just peace in the Middle East.”
Ford told the editors that his orders to the Department of Commerce to disclose the names of American corporations complying with the Arab boycott became effective as of Oct. 7. He said that was “the decision I agreed to. It is prospective rather than retroactive” because he did not want to change the rules in the middle of the game. He noted that his executive orders last year did not require the Department of Commerce to name companies complying with the boycott but as of Got. “everybody knows it will be public.”
RELATIONS WITH JEWISH COMMUNITY
Asked what percentage of the Jewish vote he thought he would win on Nov. 2 and whether he
Asked about the request for political asylum by the Indian Jewish leader Elijah Jhirad whose extradition has been requested by the New Delhi government, Ford said the case was still in the judicial process and that he would consider it when it came before him.
Robert A. Cohn, editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light and president of the American-Jewish Press Association, thanked the President for accepting the Association’s request for their meeting. The editors were addressed by James Lynn, director of the Office of Management of the Budget. They were guests of the Administration at a reception at Taylor House and were invited to a reception at the Israeli Embassy here Thursday night.