WASHINGTON (Jan. 1)
Political quiet prevailing here during the holiday week cannot last long. The Carter Administration is in deep contention domestically both on its national and international policies. When the Congress reconvenes Wednesday, with its inquiries, hearings and speeches, the issues are bound to get into sharp focus.
These include U.S. diplomatic abandonment of Taiwan and the implications of this on Washington’s relationship with Israel; the attitude of the Carter Administration towards inducing Israel and Egypt to reach a peace settlement, traditional economic supporting assistance to Israel; the weapons policy for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel and the official outlook towards the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization.
International and national policies are entangled as President Carter’s Administration enters its third year. The domestic economy–inflation, unemployment, the falling standard of living–is at the heart of the nation’s politics. Thus, while U.S. “normalization” with the People’s Republic of China has its obvious strategic purposes, the major thrust is seen as bearing on an increase in the U.S. share of the billion-people Chinese market and the use of China’s natural resources, including oil.
ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE USSR
Similarly, increasing signs indicate the Administration’s intent to bolster the U.S. share of the Soviet market by altering or dumping the Jackson-Vanik amendment and provide U.S. government credits to the Soviet Union for purchases of American goods and services. While Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.) has Carter’s pledge not to move against the amendment, other legislative ways are possible to effect the same-goal of loans to Russia for commercial purposes.
On its part, the Soviet Union is dealing cards to Americans eager to hasten their business deals, although on U.S.: government credits. The Soviet cards include the higher current Jewish emigration rate and what the Soviet Union considers easing restrictions on religious practices. A sign of appeasement of Soviet views is the comparative Scarcity of Western interviews and reports on Soviet dissidents and “refuseniks” since the uproar following Anatoly Sheharansky’s imprisonment.
THE CHINESE CONNECTION
In defending the new China policy, Administration supporters are emphasizing the “reality” is that Washington “sheltered” Taiwan for “24 great years” and is more of a “beneficiary” than an “ally.” Therefore, they say, Taiwan cannot expect the U.S. “to go on forever sacrificing global urgencies to aging fantasies” and is “neither a friend nor an ally.” That such reasoning may be applied to Israel in a crunch with the Arab world is an argument not being overlooked by opponents of the China policy looking for support from Israel’s friends.
In general, the opponents favor normalized relations with China but not at the price the Carter Administration is paying and in a way that alarms small nations linked to the U.S. defense strategy. It is thought South Korea seeing the Taiwan possibility come its way, is preparing to “buddy up” to Peking.
While President Carter has ordered a shutdown in anti-Israel propaganda from his foreign affairs aides following Israel’s refusal to accept the U.S. endorsed Egyptian terms for a treaty, media elements intimate with White House insiders are shouting about “special interest factions” who, oppose “Carter’s reforms abroad.” The vehemence of same American officials is hinted in a recent remark that matter would be worse if “the true reactions of the leaders of the Carter Administration” about Israel’s friends and Israel were to be publicly revealed.
How much of this is accurate and how much bluster is beyond measure but the tactic recalls the sage advice of Sen. Clifford Case (R. N. J.) in his final words to the Washington press prior to his retirement after 24 years in the Senate. He urged the Administration not to condemn Israel and seek to “breed her spirit” because Israel alone stands as a reliable friend of America in a crucial corner of the world. The absence of Case from the Senate, where he was the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, is regarded as a major loss to America’s democratic allies.
FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC ISSUES
On foreign aid for Israel. Carter said explicitly in a recent interview with ABC-TV’s Barbara Walters that he will not “re-assess” the policy of traditional support for Israel and that he does “not necessarily” agree with Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D. W. Va.) that Congress may reduce Israel’s aid If it builds new settlements in occupied areas. Neverthe less; a reduction in assistance on the ground of America’s inflation problem is possible. The State Department has given a hint in this direction.
The Administration has taken a strong position against the United Nations publicizing the Palestine Liberation Organization and UNESCO’s continued assaults on Israel. Its persistence, however, in equating Israeli retaliation on PLO bases to terrorist attacks on civilians in Israel has raised questions that have not been adequately answered. That there are elements in the foreign affairs bureaus who would perform a “Taiwan-China” maneuver to legitimize the PLO terrorists and try to bring them into the Mideast talks is understood by some observers of the Mideast scene.
The continued publicizing of PLO chief Yasir Arafat by some of the most important media indicates that the spirit of accommodation with his organization is alive and there are instances when its terror tactics are set aside. It is not seen by observers as altogether an oversight that a column-length interview (In The New York Times) and a half-hour interview on CBS-TV did not mention terrorism and that (in the Washington Post) a leading editorialist has suggested that Carter’s “greatest” political and moral contribution to a Mideast settlement would be to bring the PLO into the negotiations.
Thus, the year 1979 enters with uncertainty on the course of events of highest importance to the Jewish community but, as an informed observer recalled wisdom precludes predictions on the turn of political events, particularly about the Mideast.