WASHINGTON (Sep. 13)
Julius Berman, chariman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, emerged from two hours of State Department meetings late yesterday expressing the belief that the Reagan Administration will “stay the course” in Lebanon.
Berman said he received this “impression” when he and 12 other members of the Presidents Conference and of the National Republican Jewish Coalition met for an hour with Secretary of State George Shultz and then for another hour with Richard Murphy who has been designated Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, succeeding Nicholas Veliotes.
Stressing as usual that he was bound by the rules not to reveal what the State Department officials said, Berman said he received the impression that the Administration is concerned that the situation has “escalated” in Lebanon, going beyond the “usual civil war” there between religious groups to the involvement of outside forces, particularly the Syrian troops and the Palestine Liberation Army.
The State Department, earlier in the day, had expressed concern that “Syrian supported Palestinians” were engaged in the fighting in Lebanon.
Bermon stressed that in the Middle East there is a need for “savlunot” (patience) and that the worst thing for the U.S. would be to pull out of Lebanon. He said the U.S. would have to “persevere” if it wants to get the Syrians and the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Lebanon.
He emphasized, however, that he had the impression that the U.S. still has faith in the Lebanese army and “has not given up the ghost” but plans to stay the course.
The Jewish leaders were invited to the State Department yesterday apparently to meet Murphy who has been Ambassador to Saudi Arabia for the past two years.
Barman said he was “impressed” by Murphy who, he said, has “knowledge of the Middle East and of the players,” While Murphy has never been directly involved with Israel, he visited there two weeks ago and is continuing to improve his knowledge in that area, Barman noted.
Max Fisher, honorary chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told reporters earlier that he has known Murphy for about eight years and that his experience in Saudi Arabia and before that as U.S. Ambassador to Syria makes him “sensitive” to the issues involved at present. Fisher noted that while he was Ambassador to Syria, Murphy was helpful in alleviating problems of Syrian Jewry.
On another issue, Berman said that Secretary Shultz, during his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gramyko in Madrid last week, discussed the matter of Soviet Jewish emigration and in particular, the plight of Jewish activists imprisoned in the USSR.
UJA LEADERS MEET WITH REAGAN, BUSH
Meanwhile, 25 leaders of the United Jewish Appeal, each of wham has contributed at least $500,000, met with President Reagan and Vice President George Bush for a half hour on September 6, just before the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Minn.) accompanied the group, said that while they found that the President was not willing to do everything they wanted for Israel, they felt he was very sensitive to their position. Specter said the President greeted the group by wishing them a happy 5744.
He said that when the group asked why the U.S. does not move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the President said it would be inappropriate at this time because negotiations are going on and it is still possible to bring King Hussein of Jordan into the negotiations.
The President also replied to complaints about the sale of AWACS reconnaissance planes to Saudi Arabia, saying the Saudis are doing a lot behind the scene.