WASHINGTON (Feb. 15)
Officials of the State Department and the U. S. Agency for International Development (AID) told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee concerned with the Middle East that U.S. Interests in that area include the security of Israel and “our relationship with key Arab countries.”
Assistant Secretary of State Harold Sounders and Joseph Wheeler, AID’s Assistant Administrator testified yesterday and Tuesday at hearings an why the U.S. is expending almost $3 billion in program for Israel and Egypt in the fiscal year beginning next Oct. 1.
Explaining how U. S. aid assists the U. S. in pursuing its interests and overall strategy in the Middle East, Sounders said that the “more important and diverse interests of the U. S. converge on the Middle East today than almost any other port of the developing world.”
He said that “these interests include the security of Israel, out relationship with key Arab countries, the supply and pricing of oil, trade, the avoidance of major power conflicts and our human commitment to help all of the people at this area find better lives in dignity, justice and peace.”
With the U. S. earmarking $1. 785 billion in military and economic aid to Israel, and close to $1 billion in economic assistance to Egypt, Sounders said the Carter Administration seeks to encourage peacemaking in the Middle East. “I cannot claim a dollar-for-dollar corelation,” he told the sub committee headed by Rep. Lee Hamilton (D. Ind.). “What we’re talking about is building a relationship of collaboration.”
QUESTIONS AID TO SAUDI ARABIA
Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D. NY) questioned the large amounts of military weaponry that is being transferred to a monarchy like Saudi Arabia. He said he considered it unfortunate that the U.S. should be providing such large military hardware to that country rather than into economic developmental efforts and encourage societal improvement.
Sounders reported that Saudi Arabia makes its own determination and indicated that its military establishment is relatively small and is just beginning to develop.
When Rosenthal observed he had objected that U. S. military sales to Saudi Arabia last year did not result in Saudi support for President Carter’s Camp David peace initiatives, Saunders replied that the U. S., still hopes to persuade Saudi Arabia to support the peacemaking process which resumes next week at Camp David on the ministerial level between the U. S., Egypt and Israel.
“It’s possible in the next few months to see the signing of a treaty of peace (between Egypt and Israel) leading to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Sinai, ” he said. He also said that the “pursuit of peace is central” but “what we need to do is not just pursue peace but help the governments through a difficult period of change.”