WASHINGTON (Oct. 18)
Top level meetings took place yesterday and today at the White House and the Pentagon amid official silence over the latest public remark critical of Israel by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. George S. Brown. The White House said it “might” have a comment later after the “transcript” of Brown’s comments to Israeli cartoonist and writer Raanan Lurie is examined
The comments were contained in an interview to be released next week by King Features Syndicate. The interview, which took place last April, was leaked last week to the media. Why and by whom it was leaked two weeks before the Presidential election were among the unanswered questions today.
According to one version, Lurie asked Brown whether he felt Israel and its forces are more of a burden or more of a blessing from a pure military point of view to the U.S. Brown reportedly replied: “Well, I think it’s got to be considered a burden.”
REACTIONS TO STATEMENT
Two Jewish organizations, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Zionist Organization of America, have demanded immediate action against Brown for allegedly stating in the interview that Israel was a military “burden” to the U.S. (See separate story.)
The Pentagon, meanwhile, reported that it may have no comment, implying that whatever action might be taken was up to the President. But the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements, who arrived in Israel today at the head of a group of American military experts and senior officers, said, when asked to comment on Brown’s reported statement, that he had never looked at Israel in that light. He added, however that the matter was one to be resolved between President Ford and Brown.
Asked by a reporter today if Israel is “a burden or a blessing strategically” to the U.S., State Department spokesman Robert Funseth replied, “Our position on Israel is well known as is our support of Israel, its security and the close relations that have existed since the founding of Israel.”
Congressional comment was scarce with the members engaged in campaigning. But Illinois Republican Charles Percy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked President Ford to fire Brown as chairman. A Percy aide told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Percy said “Brown’s insensitivity is intolerable.”
The Lurie interview also reportedly involved remarks regarded as derogatory in Britain and Iran as well as in the United States and Israel. He suggested more cautious deliveries of arms to Iran despite President Ford’s declaration that he considered the U.S. arms program for Iran vital to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Presidential news secretary Ron Nessen told the JTA that the President has not yet seen Brown about the interview. At the Pentagon, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Alan Wood remarked that “Anytime Gen: Brown is quoted on that subject, we get excited.”
In Oct. 1974, Brown remarked at Duke University that Jews control the U.S. banking system and the media. He apologized after being reprimanded by Ford. At his hearing last summer for his retention as Joint Chiefs chairman for two more years, he again commented adversely about Jews but he later altered his view and the Senate confirmed him by a vote of 57-34.
FORD’S ARMS DECISION ATTACKED
Meanwhile, Ford’s decision to supply Israel with sophisticated weaponry “some time” in the future was attacked yesterday by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger. “This represents a new reassessment, a sudden, abrupt, preelection reassessment which hasn’t been coordinated with either the Departments of State or Defense,” he said.
Ford and the two Departments have asserted that Israel’s request for sophisticated weaponry, the nature of which remained undisclosed, was cleared through the proper channels before the President made his promise.
Appearing on ABC’s “Issues and Answers’,” Schlesinger was asked whether the pledge “has any serious negative impact on the defense structure or on foreign policy.” Schlesinger replied he has “always been reluctant to use our weapons particularly advanced technology weapons, as diplomatic wampum or, particularly, domestic political currency.”