House Unit Hears Pleas for U.S. Grants for Desalting Plant, Hadassah
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House Unit Hears Pleas for U.S. Grants for Desalting Plant, Hadassah

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony today from Jewish leaders who urged grants of funds for a dual-purpose desalting and electric power plant in Israel, for expansion of Hadassah’s teaching and research program there and for the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Following testimony by experts that Israel would face a growing water shortage by 1970, committee chairman Thomas Morgan, Pennsylvania Democrat, and virtually all committee members voiced strong support for an amendment to the foreign aid bill that would provide Israel with $40 million for construction of the proposed installation. Under the plan, the facility would produce nearly 40 million gallons of fresh water daily. Israel would pay $100 million of the cost of the plant and the United States would pay $40 million over a period of five years. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Benjamin S. Rosenthal. New York Democrat, jointly with Rep. Peter Frelinghuysen, New Jersey Republican. Both are members of the committee.

Rep. William F. Ryan, New York Democrat, a proponent of previous legislation for United States support of Israeli desalination efforts, appeared before the committee and clashed with a Republican member Rep. Ryan charged that despite the commitment of the former Johnson Administration to desalination aid for Israel, the Nixon Administration through “both the White House and the Interior Department, had refused to take a position on this project.” Rep. Ryan said that “if the Administration will not uphold the United States commitment to Israel, then it is up to Congress to authorize U.S. participation in the desalting facility which Israel so badly needs. To do less will only increase the instability in the Middle East.”


Rep. John Buchanan, Alabama Republican, took issue with Rep. Ryan for criticizing the Nixon Administration. He urged that a bi-partisan approach should be used with no reflection cast on the White House. Rep. Rosenthal’s testimony stressed the urgency of Israel’s water needs. He said that more than 95 percent of available water had already been tapped in Israel. According to Rep. Rosenthal, development of a prototype plant, developed by Israel and the United States, would produce a possible break-through in desalting brackish water of universal value.

Witnesses included Dr. Abel Wolman, of Johns Hopkins University, former chairman of the National Water Resources Board and Philip Sporn, desalination expert and former president of the American Electric Power Co. Both specialists emphasized Israel’s unique ability to perfect desalination and stressed the great need for water in Israel. Rep. L. H. Fountain, North Carolina Democrat, a member of the committee, questioned the safety of the proposed installation in view of the Middle East military situation. Mr. Sporn said that Israel had demonstrated its defensive ability. Rep. Lester Wolff, New York Democrat, said that the provision of United States jet aircraft to Israel would help guarantee the safety of the nation and its installations.


Mrs. Max Schenk, president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, asked the committee to approve a grant of $5 million over a five-year period for the Hadassah teaching and research program. Mrs. Schenk described to the committee the function of the Hadassah hospital in serving Arabs as well as Jews. She pointed out that even members of El Fatah, the Arab terrorist group, were treated at the hospital. Committee members commented on the Hadassah medical services to Arab and Jew alike.

Mrs. Schenk outlined the developing needs of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center which is to include the new Moshe Sharett Institute of Encology, pertaining to the treatment of cancer. Mrs. Schenk told how the reunification of Jerusalem had accelerated Hadassah’s needs with the rehabilitation of the hospital on Mount Scopus which is to serve the Jewish and Arab populations of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza strip area, “and even patients from across the Jordan.”

Committee members recommended that Mrs. Schenk review the Hadassah request with the U. S. Agency for International Development. Mrs. Schenk said that the estimated total cost of the expansion program “which we hope to implement over the next five years, is approximately 66.7 million Israeli pounds, or about $19 million. Of this about 23 million pounds, or $6.5 million, represents foreign exchange requirements.” She pointed out that practically all the foreign exchange components would be spent in the United States for equipment. It was pointed out that Hadassah requested inclusion in the section of the Foreign Assistance Act dealing with aid to American schools and hospitals abroad. “Specifically,” she said, “our request is for a $5 million grant for a five-year period.”


Dr. Albert Sabin, noted American medical research authority and president-designate of the Weizmann Institute, elicited a favorable response when he asked the committee to reinstate $3 million for the Institute. That amount was eliminated from the 1970 federal budget by the Budget Bureau, although sums were provided for the American University in Beirut and the American University in Cairo.

Dr. Sabin said the $3 million would pay for facilities at the Weizmann Institute for graduate students from developing countries. The deleted allocation was contained in the budget transmitted by former President Johnson last January for the fiscal year 1970. It was supported by the Budget Bureau at that time but more recent recommendations of the Bureau eliminated the $3 million, although the entire grant would be spent in the United States for laboratory equipment, computers, office machines and other necessary items.

Dr. Sabin told the committee members that although Israel was eliminated through the deletion of the sum for the Weizmann Institute, the same section of the authorization bill now before the committee provided the American University of Beirut with $9.5 million and the American University in Cairo with $200,000.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is also requesting $1 million in Egyptian currency for the American University in Cairo. Dr. Sabin pointed out that the Weizmann Institute not only benefited Israel but also many developing countries and that vital research in scientific fields of concern to the United States were under way at the Institute.

Chairman Morgan, commended the work of the Institute. Rep. Leonard Farbstein, New York Democrat, said he could see no reason why the Administration could make grants to institutions in Egypt and Lebanon but eliminate the Weizmann Institute.

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