WASHINGTON (Apr. 27)
The Carter Administration, in its attempt to prevent Congress from blocking its proposed package of warplane sales to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, appeared today to be pressing two new tactics. One is to stress, at least subtly, that it is Washington, not Jerusalem, that will determine American national interests, and the other is to shift the initial fight over the package proposal from the Senate to the House.
These tactics were revealed yesterday after a meeting between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and key members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee resulted in a stalemate. The Senators indicated they were still opposed to the sale as long as it is part of a package, because of the on-going Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations and because of concern over the sale of highly-sophisticated planes to Saudi Arabia.
Later in the day, it was revealed that Clement Zablocki, Jr. (D.Wis.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said that he believed that his committee will block any effort to reject the sale by a 19-18 vote. If the committee does not reject the sale it will mean there will be no need for Senate action, since a majority in both Houses must reject the proposal within 30 days after it has been submitted by the Administration. The Carter Administration is expected to submit the package, but for each country separately, as required by law.
RAISES ISSUE OF NATIONAL INTEREST
The Administration’s statement on determining national interest was made by White House Press Secretary Jody Powell yesterday, after he admitted the fight over the warplanes in Congress would be “very close” and “very tough.”
“The real issue which Congress and the country must decide is whether it is in the best interests of the United States to maintain, without deviation, its historic commitment to the security of Israel, while at the same time we are seeking closer ties with the moderate Arab nations,” Powell said. “The President feels strongly that it is.” (See related stories P. 1 and P. 3.)
Powell also said that “the Congress and the country will have to decide what kind of Middle East we want in the 1980s, whether we want a Middle East with those who seek peace, both among the Arabs and the Israelis, have confidence in the United States, or a Middle East where those moderate Arab nations may be forced to turn to others who don’t necessarily share the U.S. commitment to the security of Israel.”
The President’s latest tactics may put him in direct conflict with some of the most powerful members in the Senate, such as Senators Frank Church (D.Ida.), the second ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Jacob K. Javits (R.NY) and Clifford Case (R.NJ), among others. Javits said yesterday, after the meeting with Vance, that the Congress was willing to “accommodate” the President on the warplanes issue but he asked that the President show some “trust” in members of Congress.