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Behind the Headlines Achievements of the 95th Congress

Apart from the stunning setback on the Carter Administration’s Mideast warplane package deal that included Saudi Arabia, the 95th Congress, which adjourned last week, handsomely supported Israel’s requirements, continued to encourage Soviet Jewry and established new programs to extend aid for both in the coming year.

In rendering support for Israel and Soviet Jewry, the Congress also spiked the biggest guns in the Carter Administration that courted the Palestine Liberation Organization and arranged a bilateral partnership with the Soviet Union on the Middle East’s future.

In addition, Congress blocked moves the Administration favored to weaken the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that links Soviet emigration policy with U.S. government credits and almost slammed the gate shut on financial help for Syria because of its offensives against the Lebanese Christians who have Israel’s backing.

But Congress, sensing the Arab-Israeli breakthrough by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem last Nov. 19 toward which the Administration was initially cool, opened its arms wide to Sadat when he came twice after that to the Capitol as it did for Israeli Premier Menachem Begin. It has given full backing and highest marks to President Carter for his Camp David initiative and the two frameworks that emerged from that 13-day conference in September.

NEW PROGRAMS SET UP BY CONGRESS

New programs set up by Congress include the following: a $40 million fund for U.S. -Israeli binational cooperation an agricultural techniques; a $1 million authorization for Israeli students to study in American-supported institutions in Arab countries and Arab students to study in similar institutions in Israel; a $5 million fund to encourage establishment of a “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East that specifically includes Israel and her neighbors; a fund of $20 million to help American voluntary organizations which are to match that money in resettling Soviet refugees in the United States. Apart from the “Marshall Plan” fund, the new programs were proposed by the Carter Administration.

In addition to providing Israel with $785 million in economic aid and $1 billion in military assistance, as the Administration had recommended Congress also voted $25 million in a continuation of support for settling Soviet Jews in Israel.

Particularly far-reaching legislation was the adoption of the anti-Arab boycott law to help protect American businessmen from discrimination by the Arab governments that have barred trade with companies that deal with Israel or have Jewish management. While the legislation is not an ironclad barrier to the boycott, Congressional proponents are waiting for the new Congress to meet in January for an examination of its impact.

Administration moves to circumvent the Jackson-Vanik Amendment on the ground that it hampers U.S. trade and employment centered on the Commodity Credit Corporation by which government financing for agricultural purposes could be granted to the Soviet Union. This would have set aside in part the Jackson-Vanik intention.

But Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D. Ohio) fought the move from its onset and when the Anatoly Shcharansky trial and other Soviet proceedings angered both the White House and the Congress, the House Agricultural Committee that had wanted the credit turned against the proposal and it was stillborn. Ironically, East Germany, Bulgaria, Albania, Vietnam and North Korea along with the Soviet Union were barred. Poland, Rumania and Yugoslavia have “most favored nation” status and are not affected by the ban.

SENTIMENT AGAINST THE PLO

Large sections of the Senate and House reacted immediately and strongly both to the President’s offer in Plains, Ga. on Aug. 7, 1977 to talk to the PLO if it accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, even with the PLO’s qualification on the Palestinians, and to the joint Soviet-American Mideast statement of Oct. 1, 1977. The PLO, as it turned out, rejected the idea of accepting 242 and thereby implicitly recognizing Israel.

Congressional sentiment against the PLO was dramatically indicated when a resolution, sponsored by the dean of the Jewish members in the House, Rep. Sidney Yates (D. III.), attracted the signatures of 402 Congressmen and denounced the PLO’s slaughter of civilians on the Israeli coastal road near Tel Aviv last March.

The Soviet-American declaration, while not publicly shelved by the Administration, was effectively put aside after both Houses reflected anger at the White House action. However, the Administration continues to speak of Soviet participation ultimately in the Mideast settlement since it is cochairman with the U.S. of the Geneva conference.

How far the Administration has veered from the courtship with the PLO is indicated by its turnabout in favoring visas for PLO members to conduct an information office in Washington. After initially opposing such a ban, the State Department made it known that it now supports a ban on PLO members entering the United States.

Capping this change of view, with Congressional sentiment had much to do, was Carter’s expression that equated the PLO with the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and Communists. This expression came 13 months after his virtual invitation to legitimize the PLO.

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