WASHINGTON (Oct. 27)
Eighty American-Jewish communal leaders from across the country, venting anger at trends in U.S. Middle East policy, made clear, in complete harmony yesterday that the Carter Administration’s course for an Arab-Israeli settlement is “perverting” its express purposes.
After meeting for more than 90 minutes with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his chief Middle East expert, Assistant Secretary of State Alfred L. Atherton at the State Department, participants who talked with reporters emphasized solidarity with Israel’s requirements for security–no Palestinian state and no role for the PLO in peace negotiations. Vance sought to reassure the Jewish leaders that U.S. goals preserve Israel’s security. Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who was chosen to brief reporters later on the views expressed by the Jewish leaders, said the Jewish community appreciated the Secretary’s courtesy in arranging the meeting and his statements.
Schindler added, “We certainly appreciate the sincerity of his purpose–to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East, a peace moreover which will not be a ‘peace of death’ for Israel. Our issue is with the policy which the Administration has chosen to achieve these goals because it is our conviction that these policies, these procedures and these tactics, far from bringing about peace, are actually impeding the march toward peace,” Schindler said.
He said that “the frustration and anger are the result of the fact that we perceive certain policies on the part of this Administration which, in our judgment do not achieve those high and noble purposes but, in fact, pervert them.”
About 90 leaders of national Jewish organizations, including welfare funds and 20 communitywide councils were invited to attend the meeting which the State Department described as a background briefing, meaning that the remarks by Vance and other U.S. officials present were not for disclosure. Schindler said that 81 leaders accepted the invitations and all but one of them appeared. He noted that those present represented 80-85 percent of the American Jewish community and that they had expressed themselves at the meeting.
Schindler said he could not disclose what Vance said at the meeting. Other sources reported, however, that the Secretary promised there would be no economic or military pressure on Israel or an attempt to impose a settlement on Israel. He also reportedly said that the State Department would not seek to reduce military and economic aid to Israel, currently in the amount of $1.8 billion. Israel is seeking $2.3 billion for the new fiscal year.
Asked if any Jewish leader at the meeting took a view different from those he was expressing, Schindler said that all expressed “disappointment” and “outrage.” He said the “concern, frustration and anger” came from “the national leadership and the grass roots.” He noted that one speaker, identified later as the Agudat Israel representative Moshe Sherer, had declared that this Administration is “the greatest unifying force in Jewish life.” Schindler added, “Obviously, we appreciate the dialogue and the Secretary’s courtesy and the effort for peace.”
Schindler said that the meeting had “no particular conclusion. It was a dialogue that was not meant to solve anything but to explore differences of views that most assuredly were there. These differences came to the fore and most assuredly were there at the end” of the meeting, Schindler said.
He said the Jewish leaders raised the PLO issue and that the Administration was making it “more and more possible for the PLO to be involved (in the political process) even though the PLO is at the heart and center of a world-wide conspiracy against the Jewish people” and the civilized world. Asked if the leadership felt they were misled by President Carter in his election campaign, Schindler said “I wouldn’t go that far.” He said Jews are “optimistic” and “we have never given up hope that President Carter will live up to his commitments.”
According to Schindler, “Israel has bent itself into a pretzel to accommodate itself to U.S. policy and this from a government of Israel that was heralded by the media as the most intransigent of governments.” He said he did not know if the differences brought out in the meeting remain. “The Jewish community will judge not on sweet words but by the actions of the Administration,” Schindler said. (See related story P. 3.)