Role of U.S. in Mideast Assessed

U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont told an Israel Bond audience here tonight that the United States “would invite failure of the current effort to negotiate a permanent peace” in the Middle East if it tries to take a direct role in forthcoming discussions initiated by Egypt and Israel.

Declaring that “President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin seem to be proceeding along well enough,” Leahy, a freshman Democrat, said he did not want to see the United States “insert itself between the parties and suggest the terms of a settlement.” Instead, he called on President Carter to seek to “create a more favorable climate for the successful resolution of the Begin-Sadat initiative” by “cultivating” the moderate Arab states and “weaning them from their Soviet dependence.”

Leahy made his remarks as a principal speaker at a dinner sponsored by the B’nai B’rith Division of State of Israel Bonds at the Waldorf-Astoria at which Maurice A. Halperin, president of Botany ’500′ and chairman of Rapid-American Menswear, received the Prime Minister’s Medal, Israel’s highest civilian service award. It was announced that the tribute to Halperin produced more than $1,250,000 in Bond purchases. Nearly 400 communal and business leaders attended.

Leahy, who was elected in 1974 as Vermont’s first Democratic Senator, praised Carter for backing away from having the United States play a direct role in Middle East negotiations and concentrating instead on trying to influence moderate Arab states to support President Anwar Sadat’s peace initiative.

“While some in the media thought the President was sitting on his hands during the Sadat visit to Israel because his feelings were hurt, it has since become apparent that the President was entreating the moderate Arabs, who are the key to peace, to temper their criticism of Sadat,” he said.

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