NEW YORK (Jun. 27)
While expressing regret over the resignation Friday of Secretary of State Alexander Haig, representatives of leading American Jewish organizations viewed with cautious optimism the nomination of George Shultz as Haig’s successor.
The apprehension over the nomination by President Reagan of Shultz stems from what some Jewish leaders see as his pro-Arab slant attributed in part to his previous position as president of the Bechtel Corporation, the same corporation which Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was president of and which has extensive business contacts with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries.
Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said Haig’s departure is a “matter of concern and regret.” While he noted Shultz’s “reputation for integrity, competency and distinguished government service,” Squadron said Shultz “must surely recognize the importance to American interests of a strong and secure Israel, and of the need for continuing the long standing American commitment to Israel’s safety and survival.”
“Notwithstanding his close contacts with Saudi Arabia,” Squadron continued, “we are hopeful that the Secretary-designate will take care not to alter the traditional balance in American Middle East policy by moving too far in favor of the Saudis.”
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, also expressed regret at the departure of Haig. Schindler said that while little is known of Shultz’s foreign policy views, he nevertheless hoped that they will not be “overly influenced” by the fact that Shultz worked for the Bechtel Corporation.
Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress was less optimistic and said the nomination of Shultz arouses “the gravest apprehension. Like Caspar Weinberger, he comes from the Bechtel Corporation …. the combination of two top officials of Bechtel in the posts of Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense is frightening to contemplate,” Siegman said.
Ivan Novick, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) said that the ZOA was “confident that Secretary Haig’s perception of America’s interest in the Middle East, including the need for Israel and the Lebanese people to be free of all threats from the PLO and Syria, will be a policy continued by the Administration and supported by his successor George Shultz.”