The Scene from the Jewish Community: Leaders Say Senate Move Harms Peace

American Jewish organizations reacted today with disappointment over the Senate’s support last night for President Carter’s proposal to sell jet warplanes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. They stressed the danger to Israel’s security, especially in the sale of the 60 F-15s to Saudi Arabia, and sow the Senate action as a setback to Middle East peace efforts.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in a statement issued by its chairman, Alexander Schindler, said “it is up to the President to make his word good” that supplying the planes to the two Arab countries “would encourage the forces of ‘moderation’ in the Middle East and promote the cause of peace. Now it is up to the President to bring Egypt back to the negotiating table and to win the public support of Saudi Arabia for the renewal of the peace process.”

Noting that Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, in a seven-page letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Saudis would use their F-16s for defensive purposes only, the Presidents Conference declared that “President Carter has bound himself and his successors in the White House to the proposition that the F-15 fighter-bomber will never be used against Israel.”

Meanwhile, he noted, “Israel remains at war and under siege, its security dangerously imperiled by the Carter package,” the Schindler statement said. “If there is to be peace, and if Israel is to be secure, our country must redress the dangerous arms imbalance resulting from the President’s arms package…our country’s original commitment to provide a full complement of arms to Israel must now be honored.”

SECURITY OF ISRAEL AFFECTED

B’nai B’rith president David Blumberg said the sale to Egypt and Saudi Arabia “will adversely affect the security of Israel.” He said that “in light of the first sale of offensive military planes to Egypt (50 F-5Es), it is imperative that the White House and State Department encourage President (Anwar) Sadat to return to the peace table.” He added that the sale of the F-15s to the Saudis “gives the United States the right to seek greater moderation” from them.

In a harsh statement, Rabbi Joseph Stemstein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, charged the White House with “turning America away from its commitment to a proven ally, the democratic State of Israel.” He charged that “it is clear that the Administration has succumbed to Arab petro-dollar pressure and this new and dangerous factor is now shaping American foreign policy.” He added that Israel cannot be blamed now for having doubts about the reliability of U.S. guarantees.

CHAGRINED BY SENATORS’ ACTIONS

Howard Squadron, president of the American Jewish Congress, declared that “the Senate vote is a setback to the cause of peace.”He said the sale of the planes to the two Arab countries “will justifiably heighten Israel’s fears for its security and increase its concern for territorial protection against renewed Arab attacks.”

He stated that the AJCongress was “disappointed” by the President’s intensive lobbying for the sales “particularly in view of the campaign promises he made about rejecting Arab oil blackmail and slowing down the arms race. We are equally chagrined by those Senators who for many years publicly professed their deep concern for peace and their personal abhorrence of the proliferation of arms sales in the Middle East and nevertheless voted for the Carter package.”

Burton M. Joseph, national chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, stressed that “since it is the Administration’s position that the plane package deal will make the peace process easier, it is now encumbent upon President Carter to urge Egypt to return to the peace table.” He said the Saudis should also “urge President Sadat to be less intransigent and more forthcoming.” Joseph declared that “the burden of proof is now on the Administration to move the Saudis and Egypt to take meaningful steps toward peace.”

Harry S. Taubenfeld, national chairman of Herut-USA, charged that “Israel stands alone, the victim of an American foreign policy which considers no U.S. promise binding and no pledge enforceable.” Taubenfeld said the “lesson” of the Administration’s victory yesterday is that “never again can the Jewish State retreat from her borders in return for American guarantees.”

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