Washington (Mar. 10)
– Prominent Jewish Republicans who met with President Reagan and his advisors at the White House yesterday indicated deep concern over the Administration’s decision to provide extra fuel tanks and missiles for Saudi Arabia’s 62 F-15 jet war-planes and urged that the Saudis make concessions in relation to both America’s programs and Israel’s needs before the sale is consummated.
The leaders observed to Reagan’s advisors, it was reported today, that Saudi Arabia should give support for U.S. policy in reciprocity for the military assistance the Reagan Administration is giving them.
Reagan and his advisors gave the Jewish leaders assurances that the Administration considered Israel a strategic asset to the U.S. and would maintain Israel’s qualitative military superiority in the area. But they did not specifically pledge they would seek to obtain Saudi concessions.
Meanwhile, resolutions disapproving the sale to Saudi Arabia are being prepared in both the Senate and the House and a majority of the Republican-dominated Senate Foreign Relations Committee appears to disapprove delivery of the equipment to Saudi Arabia without Saudi reciprocation.
Most of the 32 Jewish Republicans at the White House meeting yesterday were members of the Coalition for Reagan-Bush, the Jewish organization that helped Reagan and Vice President George Bush obtain what the Coalition said after the elections was 45 percent of the Jewish vote– a figure approximately equal to the Jewish vote given President Carter which was the lowest on record for a Democratic nominee.
REAGAN EXPRESSES UNDERSTANDING
Reagan, who was personally involved in part of the two hours of discussion with the Jewish Republicans, expressed understanding of their concerns and assured them that the security and viability of Israel would not be jeopardized by the sale to the Saudis. He also outlined his national economic and defense programs, and the Jewish leaders who he had invited to the White House to be informed of his programs, welcomed them and voiced their support.
Max Fisher, who was honorary co-chairman of the Coalition for Reagan-Bush and was the principal spokesman for the Jewish Republican leaders after the White House meeting, said he was relieved by the President’s statements on the Saudi issue. He noted, however, that “Some of us felt better, some of us didn’t feel quite so good” after the meeting.
Gordon Zacks, of Columbus, Ohio, a Coalition co-chairman, told reporters, “If we had our druthers we’d prefer there not be a sale. But we are reassured and comfortable that the strategic balance will be maintained and that Israel, from a qualitative military security point of view, will emerge stronger than she is going in.”
George Klein, of New York, also a Coalition co-chairman, said he was “disappointed” by the sale of equipment but expressed “hope” that “before the Saudi package deal is completed, the matter will be resolved both for the sake of America as well as Israel.” Citing statements by the President and his advisors in the past, Klein said the Administration” is sincere in its desire and intent to assure Israel it will be strong and economically viable.”