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Senate Rejects Move to Punish Israel by Cutting Aid $150 Million

The Senate last night overwhelmingly rejected on attempt to punish Israel financially for its settlement policy and approved foreign aid legislation authorizing $2.1 billion for Israel and $1.3 billion for Egypt in military and economic assistance for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

While making levels of aid to Egypt and Israel equal to that authorized by the House last week, the Senate’s total authorization for foreign aid is $4.6 billion, about $400 million less than the House measure. A Senate-House committee will seek to iron out the differences in the two measures which provide about 70 percent of the total foreign aid for Egypt and Israel. In the two measures, Israel is authorized $1.4 billion in military aid and $785 million in economic assistance. Egypt will receive $551 million in military aid and $750-million in economic assistance.

The Senate voted 85-7 to reject an amendment by Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D. 111.) to cut $150 million from Israel’s economic aid total as a penalty for its settlements on the West Bank. But many of the Senators who voted against the amendment made it clear that they opposed the settlement policies of Premier Menachem Begin’s government but also opposed the Stevenson measure because it smacked of coercion.

The six Senators who voted with Stevenson to punish Israel were: Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D.W. Va.); and five Republicans: Henry Bellmon (Okla.); Mark Hotfield (Ore.); Jesse Helms (NC); James McClure (Idaho) and Milton Young (ND). Stevenson and Bellmon have announced that they will not seek re-election in November.

BEGIN CHARGED WITH INSULTING U.S.

Stevenson, in a major speech, attacked the Israel government’s settlement policy. He said “The Begin government blithely, sometimes insultingly, ignores” U.S. policy opposed to the settlements in occupied territories. He pointed out that “No matter what the Israel government does, even if damaging to the U.S. or in violation of agreements with the U.S., it gets no embarrassing questions from the U.S. “He charged that “The settlements policy undermines the just principles of the Jewish State. It undermines the position of President (Anwar) Sadat (of Egypt) in the world. It isolates Israel, threatening to make it on international outlaw.”

Stevenson recalled that “Israel attacked the USS Liberty in 1967″ and “it may have done so deliberately. Yet the U.S. has not received compensation for the damage to this ship.” The Israel government did apologize for the incident during the Six-Day War and offered compensation. President Johnson accepted Israel’s position.

Stevenson also condemned Israel’s invasion of south Lebanon in March, 1979 and other “attacks against Lebanese territory.” He said “Aid for Israel should be considered in relation to U.S. interests. We have common interests with Israel, including peace in the Middle East and the survival of Israel. But those common interests and our special relationship with Israel are not served by the settlement policy of the Begin government.

Stevenson cited statements by American Jews and Israelis in support of his position. He mentioned Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations who, he said, a Jewish Telegraphic Agency dispatch from Jerusalem last Feb. 25 reported as saying that “the Israel government is diverting virtually all of its settlement funds across the Green Line. “Stevenson said “The Congress should not side against the courageous voice of progressive Judaism and people in Israel and abroad.”

He referred to comments in opposition to the Begin government’s policies by a number of Knesset member, including Uri Avneri, Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Party and former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, by American journalists and by 90 American Jewish academicians, writers and rabbis in an advertisement supporting the “Peace Now” movement in Israel last week.

ISRAEL GETS 43 PERCENT OF U.S. AID

Stevenson observed that of the Senate’s total foreign aid bill, Egypt and Israel together “receive over 70 percent of all such U.S. assistance, of which Israel is earmarked for 43 percent.” He added that “under this bill, Israel is to receive almost as much military and economic assistance from the U.S. government as all the other 99.9 percent of the world’s people. This preference for Israel diverts funds from the support of human life and vital American interests elsewhere in an inter-dependent and unstable world, he said.

“If it could produce stability in the Middle East or enhance Israel’s security, it could be justified,” Stevenson continued. “But it reflects continued U.S. acquiescence to an Israeli policy which threatens more Middle East instability, more Israeli insecurity and a continued decline of U.S. authority in the world.”

Responding to Stevenson, Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.NY) said “it would be possible to take the Stevenson presentation apart on 100 grounds. Every world” of his statement “could be debated and answered and probably will be in an appropriate forum at an appropriate time.” Javits pointed out that “One of the big complaints made about the United Nations is that it has wide open eyes every time the Israelis cross the Lebanese border but it is absolutely blind every time the Arab guerrillas cross the Israel border.” With respect to financial aid to Israel, Javits said. “We have a good security reason why we want this enclave of stability in the Middle East.”

Sen. Charles Percy (R. 111.) said that while he disagreed with his colleague from Illinois, he is “certainly opposed” to the settlement policy. He said, however, that “the action (proposed by Stevenson) might be looked upon as coercion” and “might imply that a policy has a price tag on it.”

ISRAELI POLICY DEFENDED

Sen. Robert Packwood (R.Ore.), in a lengthy defense of Israel, said “Not only is this the wrong time for this amendment but anytime would be the wrong time for this amendment. I am tired of the drumbeat that we heap upon Israel about settlements on the West Bank. They have as much right to settle on the West Bank as does anyone else,” he said.

Sen. Charles Mathias (R.Md.), upholding assistance to Israel, said it is “the tangible demonstration of our commitment” that “we will not see the State of Israel coerced by punitive amendments in the Senate.”

Sen. Frank Church (D.Idaho), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, in opposing the amendment, “Let me make it plain that I do not endorse the settlement policy of the Begin government. But I strongly believe it is incumbent upon us to support the policy of the American government with respect to the principles embodied in the Camp David accords.” He added that “The worst thing we can do is attempt to coerce Israel into conforming its own policy with ours by threatening to withhold money. All one needs to do is to reverse the position of our two countries and imagine ourselves in the position of Israel.”

The House discussed Israeli settlement policies last week in a debate which was not followed by a vote. Rep. Robert McCloskey (R.Cal.) and five other members chastized the Israel government for its settlement policies but a dozen others opposed McClusky’s position.

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