Behind the Headlines Changes in the New Congress
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Behind the Headlines Changes in the New Congress

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The new Congress that takes office in January is expected to see only one change in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but at least 10 new faces in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, these two important committees where much of the issues affecting Israel are discussed and voted upon are expected to continue their pro-Israel stances despite their chairmen, Sen. Charles Percy (R. III.) and Rep. Clement Zablocki (D. Wis.) who have often been critical of Israel and supportive of the Palestinians.

The Senate committee opening was caused by the decision of Sen. S. I. Hayakawa (R. Calif.) not to seek re-election. The three other committee members whose terms were up this year — Sens. Richard Lugar (R. Ind.), Paul Sarbanes (D. Md.) and Edward Zorinsky (D. Neb) all were re-elected.

Zorinsky, who is Jewish, and Lugar, voted for the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia last year, although Zorinsky first voted against it in the committee and then supported it in the final floor vote. But Sarbanes, a member of the Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs subcommittee, has been a staunch and important supporter of Israel in the Senate.


In the House, the major development was the defeat of Rep. Paul Findley (R. III.), who has not only been critical of Israel but has been considered by some as the chief spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization in Congress. Findley was the ranking minority member of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East and used this position for frequent attacks on Israel.

Rep. Paul McCloskey (R. Calif.), another supporter of the PLO, did not seek re-election, but instead made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination as candidate for governor of California. McCloskey has publicly attached what he called the influence of American Jews on U.S. foreign policy. Last summer, he visited PLO chief Yasir Arafat in Beirut and emerged with a document in which he said Arafat recognized Israel which was later repudiated.

Incidentally, in a story in the Riyadh newspaper, Al-Jazirah, October 20, the Saudi Arabian newspaper’s Washington bureau warned that Findley’s defeat could have “serious consequences” for the Saudis, Palestinians and other Arabs

“He (Findley) is a major stumbling block in the face of the Zionists and their supporters,” the paper said, somewhat exaggerating the Illinois Congressman’s influence. “But he is not the only one, ” the newspaper added. It listed the others as Percy and Zablocki.


While Findley’s defeat cheers supporters of Israel, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee will also be without several strong supporters of Israel. Among the Democrats, Rep. Jonathan Bingham of New York did not seek re-election because of reapportionment, and Rep. Bob Shamonsky of Ohio was the only Jewish Congressman defeated in the November 2 elections.

On the Republican side, Rep. Edward Derwinski, a ranking minority member who champions Israel, was defeated in the Republican primary in Illinois last spring. He has been appointed State Department Counselor by President Reagan. Rep. Robert Doman made an unsuccessful primary old for governor of California and Rep. Millicent Fenwick was defeated by Democrat Frank Lautenberg in the New Jersey Senate race.

On the more favorable side. Rep. Dante Fascell (D. Fla.) a leading supporter of Israel was re-elected after a tough contest and is the ranking Democrat with the retirement of L. H. Fountain of North Carolina, after Zablocki, the chairman. The ranking Republican member, Rep. William Broomfield of Michigan is also a friend of Israel.

The Jews on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are Reps. Benjamin Rosenthal and Stephen Solarz, both (D. NY); Howard Wolpe (D. Mich.), Samuel Gejdenson (D. Conn.), Tom Lantos (D. Calif.), and Benjamin Gilman (R. NY).

The three Democratic vacancies and the seven Republicans in the House committee and the one on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are filled by the respective parties in each House. They are prestigious assignments and much sought after. Those who fill them will play an important role in Israel-U.S. relations and thus the appointments, come January, will be closely watched.

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