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Chicago Jewish Leaders Angered by Percy’s View That Israel is Intransigent, Arafat is Moderate

January 30, 1975
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Jewish leaders here responded angrily today to remarks attributed to Sen. Charles H. Percy (R.III.) which they characterized as a “shocking change of policy” toward Israel. The Senator, just returned from a tour of Israel and Arab countries, told newsmen in Washington that Israel was intransigent, that PLO chieftain Yasir Arafat was “relatively speaking, a moderate” and that Israel could not count on American support if it was responsible for launching a new war in the Middle East.

Percy’s remarks, at a breakfast meeting with journalists yesterday, drew an angry response from Maynard I. Wishner, chairman of the public affairs committee of the Jewish United Fund which represents 36 Jewish organizations in the Greater Chicago area. Wishner said Jewish communal leaders were “shocked and dismayed” by Percy’s views and “are requesting an urgent meeting with the Senator for clarification of the statements.” The Senator is due to meet with Chicago Jewish leaders tomorrow.


Percy, whose pro-Israel voting record in the Senate and public statements on many occasions earned him the reputation of being a staunch friend of Israel, was quoted as telling the American journalists that Israeli leaders were “unrealistic” if they thought they could avoid contact with the PLO. “We cannot support Israel right or wrong,” he told the group. If Israel was responsible for a new war in the Middle East “it is not clear that United States support would be with them,” he said.

He reportedly said that Israel had missed a chance to negotiate a settlement with King Hussein of Jordan and was making a mistake in refusing to deal with Arafat. Percy reportedly indicated that Israel would have to withdraw to “essentially” the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. He said there was no question that the U.S. must do everything possible to insure Israel’s independence, but warned that “there are limits to the level of support,” particularly “to the extent we’d go to support Israeli occupation” of Arab lands.


The statement issued by the Jewish United Fund here said, “It is difficult to understand his (Percy’s) characterization of Yasir Arafat as a so-called ‘moderate’ in view of Arafat’s appearance at the United Nations calling for the destruction of a member state of that body, namely, Israel, with a holster at his hip.” The statement continued:

“For Senator Percy to be taken in by so-called moderate talk at a time when Arab terrorists are firing bazookas at civilian aircraft and throwing hand grenades among innocent men, women and children on an observation deck of the Paris airport, is completely incomprehensible. We wonder what has happened to Senator Percy’s sense of perspective and even-handedness when he refers to Israel’s ‘intransigence’ when none of the other parties are asked to take any steps toward normalizing relationships leading to peace in exchange for territory. That territory keeps those who would destroy an ally of the United States out of guns’ reach of the homes and schools of a people who would welcome true peace more than anything in the world.”

Statements similar to those attributed to him at the journalists’ breakfast were made by Percy to newsmen in Israel before his departure from that country last week. (See JTA Daily News Bulletin of Jan. 24.) The Senator visited 12 Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, on his tour. When asked by the Washington newsmen which of his views changed the most as a result of his visit to the Mideast, he replied that he had gained a new impression of the Palestinians.

(This afternoon Percy issued a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on his attitude towards Israel. See P. 3 for separate story.)

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