Congress Focuses on Peace Treaty

The focus of U.S. attention on the Middle East has shifted to Congress as America’s costs and other involvement in the Israeli-Egyptian treaty became subjects of scrutiny and questioning. In both the House and Senate expressions of dismay arose over the hostility of Jordan and Syria over the Egyptian-Israeli treaty and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance seeking Congressional approval of the Administration’s continued support for them, ran into trouble last Thursday.

The House, authorizing a security assistance program, kept the Administration’s requested allocations for Jordan but warned that funds authorized for Jordan can be used “only if” President Carter “determines and certifies to the Congress that Jordan is acting in good faith to achieve further progress towards a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East and that the expenditure of such funds will serve the process of the peace in the Middle East.”

The House sent a bill to the Senate that provides for Israel to have $1 billion in military assistance and Jordan to get $121.3 million made up of $90 million in military sales credits, $30 million in grant aid, and $1.3 million in training funds.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee, acting an economic aid for the coming fiscal year, chopped funding for both Syria and Jordan. It reduced the requested $60 million for Syria to $45 million and allowed $5.5 million in food for peace. The House deleted $15 million for Syria’s Akkara irrigation project. On the Administration-requested $60 million in economic aid for Jordan, the House eliminated the Maqarin Dam fund because of Jordan’s slowness on the project and set aside the projected allocation of $38 million for it.

CONCERN OVER COST OF PEACE

Rep. Clarence long (D.Md.), the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee; said that “the gut feeling” of Congressmen is “why should peace cost more than war” and why is the military cost increased “because there is peace?” Vance replied that “in the long run we will save money. In the short run, we have to pay for the long run goals.”

Referring to the deepened U.S. involvement in Middle East security, Long said that he “wished we had a clear indication if we are going to send troops to the Middle East. Parents are not terribly reassured you will follow constitutional processes.” Vance replied, “We certainly have no intention of sending troops to the Middle East.”

Apprehension over the Egyptian-Israeli treaty has been voiced by Sen. Jesse Helms (R. NC) in a Senate speech and again by Sen. William Proxmire (D.Wis.). “As a Senator who opposed the arms sales package to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel” a year ago, Proxmire said, “I feel completed to oppose any new round of weapons accumulation in the Middle East — even if tied to and justified by the peace treaty.”

Saying that “impressive as the treaty is,” major questions involving Syria and the rest of the Arab world are “already eroding the stability of the agreement,” Helms added.

“The treaty may not be a step toward comprehensive agreement at all; it may be a step that makes comprehensive agreement unlikely. We may well have sacrificed whatever leverage we had on both the Arab states and Israel to reach such a comprehensive agreement,” he declared.

Helms, a leader of the far right in the Senate, listed 12 “hard questions” for Congress, including the “direct and indirect costs” to the U.S. in aid to Egypt and Israel, the roles of the Soviet Union, Iran and Turkey against Israel; and whether the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will be “tempted to draw the oil noose tightly around the U.S. and, more importantly, Europe.”

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