Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines Issues Facing the New Congress

Legislative actions of special Jewish concern and interest will soon reach preliminary stages in the 95th Congress. The confirmation hearings of President-elect Jimmy Carter’s Cabinet members and other top. Administration officers who must have the Senate’s approval will bring out their views on the issues. The breadth of sponsorship of bills in both Houses will be another barometer of attitudes.

Among the legislative measures to face Congress and the new Administration are military and economic aid to Israel and to its Arab neighbors; delivery of arms to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt; renewal of full U.S. membership in UNESCO which continues to condemn Israel while lifting one “illegitimate” barrier against her; ratification of the 30-year-old genocide treaty which actually may be voted into law by the Senate this time; and outlawing the Arab boycott against Israel insofar as Americans are concerned in any form.

Other measures include: nuclear plants for Egypt and Israel; legislation that may circumvent the Jackson-Vanik and Stevenson-Harrison provisos of the current U.S. trade and credit laws with relation to U.S. government credits for the Soviet Union and its emigration policy; fresh Congressional considerations of the Helsinki accords in the light of Soviet flouting of its human rights provisions; and consideration of energy programs to lessen dependence on Arab oil.

Israel has requested $2.3 billion in military and economic assistance in view of the steep rise in the costs of needed weapons and other goods. The Ford Administration is understood to have cut it by $800 million. The Carter Cabinet’s thinking has yet to be indicated. Egypt in two years received economic aid of about $2 billion which is more than the allocations of economic aid to Israel in the same period. Egypt is now asking for “defensive” military weapons, too. The U.S. supplied Egypt with six giant military aircraft–the C-130s–last year after Congress extracted a pledge from the Administration that it would not give any additional military equipment to Egypt for the remainder of 1976.

Legislation is expected to be introduced early in the session against the Arab boycott. It will be along the lines of the compromise informally worked out by Senate and House members when the legislation before both chambers was stymied by Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman John Towers until Congress adjourned Oct. 2. With President Ford and Commerce Secretary Elliot Richardson both having committed themselves to legislation that would expose compliance by American firms with the boycott, new and tough laws can be expected. Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D.NY), a prime mover of anti-boycott laws, has said that the Saudi Arabian concessions on oil price rises would not have an impact on the legislation.

ATTITUDE TOWARD UNESCO

Whether the U.S. should return to full membership in UNESCO may prove a troublesome question. Arguments are emerging that the clearance of the road for Israel to join the European Regional Group should offset the “politicization” of the educational, scientific and cultural organization against Israel

Leaders in the strong negative reaction and suspension of U.S. dues in UNESCO two years ago after UNESCO pushed through a resolution barring Israel are not so certain. They seem to agree that the UNESCO vote in Nairobi in November is a good start in the right direction but its two related resolutions attacking Israel out-weigh that. Restoration of Israel to UNESCO membership, pro-Israelis feel, is not a favor to Israel but rectification of a wrong that never should have occurred and is therefore insufficient to justify renewal of U.S. payments to that UN body.

These sympathizers resent the resolution at Nairobi condemning Israeli educational programs in the territories it occupies. They point out that in the nine years that Israel has been in control of the occupied areas it has provided the Arabs with educational facilities and teaching that not only are better than Britain or Jordan provided when they were in control but the best the Arabs there have ever had. “The Arabs know this.” one observer said.

The other Nairobi resolution that condemns Israel over its archaeological excavations in Jerusalem is also resented because UNESCO’s own authority has praised Israel’s work. Furthermore, when UNESCO was asked to send a delegation to the site. Israel accepted the proposal but instead of sending a delegation the majority in UNESCO adopted a condemnation of Israel. Then, after Israel was condemned, the majority decided it would send a delegation–a move regarded as obviously tainted before it started.

NEXT STORY