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Boycott Legislation Snagged

Federal legislation to combat the Arab boycott of Israel and Jewish business, seemingly on track a month ago with the Administration’s general support for measures outlined in Congress, is again complicated by divisions between the Legislative and Executive branches.

The complications arose after Secretary of State Cyrus Vance on March 22 wrote members of the Senate Banking and the House International Relations Committees suggesting amendments to the legislation the Committees had nearly completed drafting. Those amendments. Congressional critics said, could destroy the intent and effectiveness of the legislation.

Vance’s opposition, made public Friday, centers on the factor of negative certificates of origin” and “unilateral selection” of components. When Vance’s letter became publicly known, the State Department said his suggestions were “entirely consistent” with his testimony before the Committees on Feb. 28 and March 1. The State Department added that Vance’s “specific recommendations reflect the position of the Administration” and were coordinated with Stuart Eisenstadt, assistant to the President for domestic policy and affairs.

Denying division between the White House and the State Department, a White House spokesman confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Administration has “a consistent point of view”. The Administration, he said, favors prohibition on negative certificates, which would tell Arab countries that the products they import do not contain Israeli components or travel on ships calling at Israeli ports.

FAVORS UNILATERAL SELECTION

The Administration also favors, he said, “unilateral selection”. This would enable an Arab country to specify a certain supplier or subcontractor to produce a specific product or perform a service. Faced with the Vance letter and Administration efforts to work out a bill more suitable to the State Department, the Senate and House Committees have delayed completion of the legislation until Tuesday.

Congressional sources told JTA that a compromise on the “negative” certificates could be attained if the Administration agreed that it would seek to eliminate such certificates within two years after enactment of the bill. The new law would come up for Congressional review in two years.

On the unilateral selection issue, Congressional proponents of anti-boycott laws adamantly are opposed to any watering down. They point out that this issue is the heart of the secondary boycott. If selection is not outlawed, then the Arab countries can operate their boycott “pretty much as they are doing now,” JTA was told.

These sources said if the White House accepts the positions of the State Department, which is under known pressure from Arab governments. It will not be in step with President Carter’s pledges to combat the boycott.

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