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Berkowitz Warns That Israel is Entering a ‘fateful Period’

March 30, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

— Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the Jewish National Fund, warned today that Israel was entering a “fateful period” in which her basic security was threatened by “the willingness of Western Europe to be intimidated by Arab wealth, the apparent inability of the Reagan Administration to say ‘no’ to Saudi Arabia and a new arms race that imperils Israel’s economic recovery.”

In an address to Jewish leaders marking the 80th anniversary of the founding of the JNF by Theodor Herzl at the Fifth Zionist Congress, Berkowitz declared: “Two years after the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, Israel’s political isolation has grown worse and the principles established at Camp David are under increasing attack.

“Great Britain and France, leaders of the European Economic Community, are preparing a plan to bring the PLO into the negotiating process, to force Israel to return to the 1967 borders, to create a Palestinian state, to compel Israeli withdrawal from East Jerusalem and to ‘guarantee Israel’s security by means of foreign troops on Israeli soil. This plan menaces Israel’s very existence.”


At the same time, Berkowitz said, “The new Administration — which in so many areas has effectively reasserted America’s national interest and defended Israel without apology at the United Nations and elsewhere — has succumbed to the same impotence in dealing with Saudi Arabia that characterized the Carter Administration.

“This weakness is based upon a profound miscalculation — the wrong-headed idea that we need the Saudis but the Saudis don’t need us. It is true that Saudi Arabia supplies 17 percent of the world’s oil. But the Saudis need the vast sums they derive from the sale of their oil for the massive development and industrialization programs they have undertaken. They cannot afford the collapse of the Western economy or the devaluation of their investments in the West.

“Saudi Arabia depends on the U.S. for its markets, for its protection, for its technology and for its move into the 20th Century. We must rid our country and its leaders of the notion that the United States of America is a helpless giant before the Arab oil producers.”

Berkowitz declared that it is the “responsibility” of President Reagan and his advisors “to demand that if the Saudis are to be sold the F-15s and other advanced equipment they want, there must be a quid pro quo: they must cease their calls for a jihad (holy war) against Israel, cease their denunciation of President (Anwar) Sadat of Egypt for signing a peace treaty with Israel, cease their refusal to enter the Middle East peace process and cease their financial support of the terrorist PLO to the tune of some one million dollars per day.”


Berkowitz said, “For Israel to enter an arms race with the Saudis is potentially disasterous for the Jewish state. First, Israel cannot match the huge dollar surplus that the Saudis boast. Second, Israel cannot jeopardize the economic recovery on which it has started and which appears so promising.

“The year 1980 was one of the most successful years in Israel’s recent economic history. Exports jumped 23 percent and imports rose only 9 percent — despite a rise of 70 percent in the cost of imported oil. High-technology goods produced by Israeli brainpower are winning an increasing share of world markets. For the first time in its 33 years, Israel exported more than one billion dollars worth of goods to the United States.”

Berkowitz declared: “American Jews must say ‘no’ to a new Middle East arms race, ‘no’ to stuffing still more American weapons into the eager hands of the Saudis, ‘no’ to any kind of European ‘initiative’ that will undermine the Camp David process and ‘no’ to any recognition of the PLO.”

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