U.S. Urged to Press Arabs Harder to End the Boycott Against Israel

Pressure is building on the Clinton administration to step up efforts to end the longtime Arab economic boycott against Israel, which continues even as various Arab parties are entering into economic relationships with the Jewish state.

Assistant Secretary of State Edward Djerejian was bombarded with questions about the boycott last Friday when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concerning the administration’s Middle East policy.

Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) called the boycott “an abominable anachronism,” and his colleague, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), referred to Kuwait’s continued observance of the boycott as “obscene.”

Since 1946, before the founding of Israel, the Arab League has maintained a boycott against the Jewish state and companies doing business with it.

The boycott has cost Israel billions of dollars in lost trade and also hurts U.S. companies doing business with Israel.

Since coming to office in January, the Clinton administration has taken a vigorous anti-boycott stand welcomed by the Jewish community.

But now that Israel has signed agreements and entered into economic discussions with both the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jordan, calls from both the administration and Congress to end the boycott have become even stronger.

And some in Congress are hesitant to pour money into the new hot cause of Palestinian economic development while the boycott is still in place.

“I think increasingly there’s going to be a much stronger consensus developing in the Congress that this practice simply must come to an end,” Sarbanes said of the boycott. “I mean, it absolutely contradicts everything else that is now taking place.

“And I can’t believe that questions about the resources we should commit to development packages involving the Palestinians or other Arab countries” are not “increasingly going to have a spotlight placed upon them if we can’t make some advances in this area,” he said.

CHRISTOPHER MEETS WITH AIPAC

Djerejian, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, said the administration feels the boycott is “an anachronism completely out of step with recent developments in the peace process.”

The administration has been busy reassuring members of the Jewish community that it is doing all it can to encourage Arab nations to end the boycott.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in a recent meeting with top officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, spoke strongly of the administration’s anti-boycott efforts, according to AIPAC President Steve Grossman.

Grossman attended the Oct. 13 meeting, along with the group’s acting executive director, Howard Kohr. The 40-minute meeting, Grossman said, was initiated by Christopher.

“He was very hard-hitting in his intention” and that of President Clinton “to secure movement on this issue,” Grossman said.

At the Senate hearing, Djerejian cited progress on the so-called secondary and tertiary boycotts against companies doing business with Israel. Kuwait, he said, was one country making progress with those aspects of the boycott.

But in response to a question from Sarbanes, Djerejian acknowledged that the United States had heard that the Arab League may add more companies to its boycott list at its upcoming Oct. 24 meeting.

Meanwhile, on another topic of concern to the Jewish community, Grossman said that Christopher “was unequivocally clear that there were absolutely no allegations of Israel transferring U.S. technology to a third party, China.”

Recent press reports that the CIA was accusing Israel of selling technology to China had raised a flurry of concern in the pro-Israel community here.

But the CIA report did not specify that Israel had sold any U.S. technology to China, which is forbidden under U.S.-Israeli agreements.

According to Grossman, Christopher made it clear in his meeting with AIPAC that the United States did not believe Israel had transferred any U.S. technology to China.

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