Behind the Headlines Promises and Pressures
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Behind the Headlines Promises and Pressures

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Sen. Jacob K. Javits’ surprise trip to the Middle East and the revival of the old idea about a U.S. naval or airbase in Israel to ensure the Jewish State’s safety drew little official attention here this weekend. Unofficially, however, both developments received serious attention.

No official would comment publicly about reports that the Carter Administration is considering establishing a base near the port of Haifa as one of a number of proposals for demonstrating America’s commitment to Israel and as one of a variety of moves to reassure the new Israeli government of U.S. support. It was said that nobody knows where the report started. In Israeli circles it was pointed out that Israel’s long-standing policy is not to have foreign military forces on its soil.

However, the fact that the report was floated by U.S. sources to important American media indicated that the Carter Administration is prepared to offer a base, provide sophisticated arms and allocate continued economic assistance to Israel but will continue to insist on Israel’s withdrawal from occupied territories.

The Javits trip to Israel is regarded as secondary to his planned visit to Saudi Arabia where he is understood to wish to explore in depth that country’s intentions regarding Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jerusalem. He will thus be equipped with first-hand knowledge of the major Arab foe’s views on possible compromises.


Meanwhile, the moratorium on Middle East statements imposed on U.S. officials by President Carter pending Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s arrival was seen helping the Arab propaganda campaigns. With the U.S. having “defined” the areas of conflict, much to the disappointment of Israeli supporters, Arab leaders are continuing to refuse any true peace arrangements with Israel and are not being challenged. Although the Arab tactics run counter to Carter’s core proposal on peace, the U.S. continues to remain silent on Arab intransigence instead of challenging them to support the peace factors.

Thus, official U.S. silence, imposed by Carter at his press conference last Thursday, extended to the statement last Friday by the Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations, Esmat Abdel Meguid, who, far from endorsing Carter’s peace formula said only that “the end of the state of belligerency will come into effect” when Israel withdraws from “all occupied areas.” He also said “especially the Palestinians” should participate in a Geneva conference.


Informed sources here see a Carter-Begin scenario developing July 19-20, when the Israeli leader visits Washington, with outward cordiality by both chief executives who may get along very well personally. Privately, however, Carter is expected to re-emphasize his territorial views. His course is charted, it is said, despite his previous statements that he will meet with Mideast leaders first and then have Secretary of State Cyrus Vance travel among the confrontation states to obtain a consensus for a resumption of the Geneva conference this year. Vance is to make the trip within two weeks after Begin concludes his Washington visit. But it is believed the Secretary will have a plan in hand to test Arab and Israeli views.

Should they reject it, and the Israelis probably will since it is expected to follow the Rogers plan almost completely, then Vance will warn that the Carter Administration will support such a plan in the UN Security Council.


All is not smooth within the Carter Administration, however, it is said. National Security Affairs Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski favors a comprehensive openly declared proposal to hurry a “settlement” in some way. Vance favors a slower, calmer pace. Both agree, however, on principles of the Rogers plan.

The sources that are concerned for Israel’s future point out one particular undenied position taken by Carter. That is his statement to European journalists in May that contradicts his declarations that he will not impose a settlement. He told the journalists, “I would not hesitate if I saw a fair and equitable solution to use the full strength of our own country and its persuasive powers to bring these nations to agreement.”

While Israel is tied to those powers, the Arabs are not as vulnerable since they have oil money to see them through. It is this point that makes Javits’ trip to Saudi Arabia an interesting thread in the diplomatic fabric.

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