NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
Eight top level American Jewish leaders reported today the substance of their off-the-record discussions at the White House Monday with Vice President Walter F. Mondale on U.S. policy in the Middle East and the views of the American Jewish community. They said that “President Carter joined the discussion for a brief period.”
The leaders broke their silence on the meeting after what they regarded as erroneous reports of its purpose and content appeared in several newspapers abroad. “We particularly reject and repudiate the implication contained in some of those reports that this was an attempt to divide the Jewish community or to bypass the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,” they said in a statement made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“We plan to make a full report of our discussions in Jerusalem and Washington at an early meeting of the Presidents Conference and preparations are being drawn for that meeting.”
The group was in Israel last week and met twice with Premier Menachem Begin and other government leaders and with the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. They discussed the state of U.S.-Israeli relations and reportedly informed the Premier that certain of his policies relating to settlements and his interpretation of Security Council Resolution 242 were making it increasingly difficult to explain Israel’s position in a positive manner to American public opinion.
MADE VIEWS CLEAR
The group’s statement said, however, that “at our meeting in the White House we made clear to the President and Vice President that the American Jewish community was united and unwavering in its support of Israel’s security concerns and in its opposition to the Administration’s proposal to link the sale of jets to Israel with similar sales to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”
The statement said they also expressed disagreement with the Administration on the legality of Israel’s settlements on the West Bank. While one may legitimately argue about the impact on American public opinion of the timing of new settlements, we continue to challenge the Administration’s position that the settlements are illegal and serve no security function.”
They expressed the view that Begin’s peace offer of last December “was imaginative and far-reaching and deserved greater Administration support than it has received” and urged the President “to call on President (Anwar) Sadat (of Egypt) to return to the negotiating table and to encourage King Hussein (of Jordan) to join those talks.”
The statement said that Mondale “declared that the Carter Administration strongly supported Israel and was deeply committed to its security; that the White House wished to bring the parties back to the negotiating table and that the Administration’s only objective was a just and lasting peace which would guarantee the security of all parties. President Carter agreed with this assessment and reiterated that the preeminent commitment of the United States in the Middle East was the permanent security of Israel.”
The statement was signed by Richard Maass, president, and Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president, American Jewish Committee; Howard M. Squadron, president, and Naomi Levine, executive director, American Jewish Congress; Burton M. Joseph, national chairman, and Benjamin R. Epstein, national director, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; and Theodore R. Mann, chairman, and Albert D. Chernin, executive vice-chairman, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.