Clinton administration officials used a forum with Jewish and Arab leaders this week to criticize opponents of stationing U.S. troops on the Golan Heights for leading a campaign of “distortion” and “hysteria.”
A widely circulated statement by the Center for Security Policy had predicted that Secretary of State Warren Christopher would use the meeting over 100 Jewish and Arab American leaders on Wednesday to announce plans to commit U.S. peacekeeping troops to the Golan.
The center has been an outspoken opponent of sending U.S. forces to the Golan in the event of a Syria-Israel peace deal.
However, Christopher did not attend the briefing and no announcement regarding U.S. forces was planned, administration officials said.
“This kind of hysteria is totally unfounded and I wonder what is really motivating it,” Martin Indyk, National Security Council adviser on the Middle East, reportedly asked at the close-door session as he help up a copy of the center’s statement.
Indyk is expected to be appointed by the Clinton administration to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, a position which has been vacant since Edward Djerejian resigned earlier this year.
Dennis Ross, the administration’s special Middle East coordinator, belittled the statement, according to many who attended session.
“One wonders since these facts are so erroneous what else they are saying,” Ross reportedly said.
Responding to the officials’ charges, Frank Gaffney, director of the center, said, “The idea that it is hysterical is cheap and demeans very thoughtful and yet unanswered questions.”
Gaffney admitted, however, that his prediction that the forum would address U.S. troops on the Golan “was nothing more than speculation.”
The meeting marked the fifth time Jewish and Arab leaders gathered at the White House for briefings and peace process ceremonies since Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Declaration of Principles on the While House lawn in September 1993.
The administration had promised periodic briefings with Arabs and Jews after the Historic signing.
While the sessions have lost some fanfare, “it’s always useful to have this kind of first-hand account by those directly involved in the peace process,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
In addition to Indyk and Ross, Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman addressed the gathering, speaking about U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East.
Christman recently traveled to Israel and Egypt with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili.