WASHINGTON (Apr. 26)
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today that Congress was willing to “accommodate” President Carter on his proposal to sell jet warplanes to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia but not as a package plan. Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho), the second ranking member of the committee, told reporters, after committee members met with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance this morning, that if the President sticks to his proposal in a package it will be defeated.
Carter stated at a White House press conference yesterday that if Congress rejects the sale of planes to any of the three countries, he will withdraw the entire package. He also refused to delay for more than 2-3 days submission of the package proposal to Congress.
Under Congressional pressure the Carter Administration was reported this afternoon to have agreed to a two-day delay for its formal submission to Congress of its plane package deal. The presentation to Congress was due to have been made today. There was also speculation that the delay might have been prompted by the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, who is due to discuss this issue, along with other issues, with Vance. (See separate story P. 3.)
Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R. NY) said that if the President “insists on take-it-all or leave-it-all, the chances are we will leave it all.” He stressed that Congress wants to accommodate the President but that it wanted to be shown more “trust” by the Administration than heretofore.
THREE MAIN CONCERNS CITED
Church sold the three main concerns raised by committee members at their meeting with Vance were the linkage of the aircraft sales which, according to Church, is at variance with the law; the timing, because Congress does not believe this is the right time; and finally, Congress is concerned that the weapons to Saudi Arabia will be used against Israel, Church said. He said the Senators asked that the package proposal be delayed to allow “the peace talks to get back on the track.”
Javits said that Congress was willing to provide Israel with its security needs and to provide for the defense needs of Egypt. He said that Congress is also willing to “accommodate for the security needs of Saudi Arabia” although “it may not be exactly the way they want it.”
At the State Department later, the Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, said the purpose of Vance’s meeting with the Senators this morning was to “explore the views on both sides.” He said Vance did not negotiate about numbers of planes. “We are listening carefully,” he said. When pressed for further details, he referred reporters to Carter’s statement at his press conference yesterday that he would withdraw the entire package rather than see it split.
Asked if the Administration had enough votes to save the package, the State Department spokesman said he did not know. Earlier in the week, White House Press Secretary Jody Powell said he thought the Administration had enough votes to prevent the aircraft package from being blocked.
A majority in both Houses of Congress is needed to block any major arms sale under current legislation. Action to do so must take place within 30 days after Congress receives the Administration proposal. The Administration has indicated that it wants a decision from Congress before the Memorial Day weekend recess.