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Members of Congress Voice Concern over Lack of Firm U.S. Commitment to Israel

March 12, 1968
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A Democratic Senator and two Republican Congressmen today voiced growing concern over the lack of a firm U.S. commitment to Israel in face of the increased Soviet political and military intrusion into the Middle East. Their misgivings were supported by a defense analyst who warned that future Soviet policy in the region would depend upon the extent of the American resolve and commitment to Israel.

Senator Vance Hartke, Democrat of Indiana and two Republicans, Representatives Charles Mathias of Maryland and Donald Lukens, of Ohio, each linked America’s policy in the Middle East to this country’s deepening involvement in Viet Nam. The three spoke at the ninth annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. The forum also heard from Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, Roman Kolkowicz, of the Institute for Defense Analyses and Dr. Abraham Brumberg, editor of the U.S. Information Agency’s periodical, “Problems of Communism.”

Ambassador Rabin, addressing the dinner meeting tonight, told the assemblage that Israel did not want anyone else “to fight our wars for us.” He said that Israelis were ready to defend themselves but to deter aggression, military equipment was required. “The only thing we ask of our friends throughout the world,” he said, “is to let us have the means, the equipment to defend ourselves.”

The envoy stressed again, to an audience which included many members of Congress, that negotiations leading to peace in the Middle East must be direct. He warned that any international approach that acknowledged the Arab policy of non-recognition and non-reconciliation would only frustrate peace endeavors. Such concessions or allowing the Arabs “to evade the basic necessity of reaching agreement with us directly – any such approach will fail to solve the problems in the Middle East,” he declared. He added that “the question which the world must answer is whether to support the cause of war or the cause of peace. The cause of negotiation and settlement or the cause of non-recognition of a nation’s right of very existence.”


Senator Hartke said that because of America’s preoccupation with the war in Viet Nam, it may prove necessary to settle the Vietnamese and the Arab-Israeli issues “as a package.” He warned that unless Israel’s rights were more firmly guaranteed by the United States, there would be another Arab-Israel war “in less than three years.”

Congressman Mathias declared that he was “disappointed” with the definition of U.S. policy toward Israel given him by the American Embassy in Tel Aviv recently. He deplored what he called the Administration’s failure to clearly enunciate a pro-Israel policy in the wake of British withdrawal from the region.

Representative Lukens charged that the Administration is ignoring “realities” in the Middle East created by Soviet identification with the Arabs and declared that American support of Israel was as necessary in challenging Communism as American involvement in Viet Nam. He said he hoped it would never be necessary to send U.S. forces to aid Israel in a future conflict but “if that is the price of freedom, it is a price we will have to pay.” He denounced U.S. arms shipments to Jordan, citing the hostile border situation.

Mr. Kolkowicz said the main reason for militant Soviet moves in the Middle East was the vacuum created by the shift of major American concern and commitment from Europe and the Mediterranean to the “all consuming war in Viet Nam.” The Russians are exploiting this situation to push harder in the Middle East. He commended Israel’s present policies as “correct” and told the Israelis to “remain firm and pray that Washington is interested in what they are doing.”

Dr. Brumberg, an authority on the Soviet Union, said he did not think there was much that American Jews could do to alleviate the plight of Soviet Jewry because he did not believe that Russian policies were “to any extent influenced by pressures from world Jewry.” However, he said, a “responsible” and “non-exaggerated” campaign against Soviet anti-Jewish policies could convince the Kremlin to abandon some of its more extreme practices. He cited repudiation of the anti-Semitic book, “Judaism Without Embellishment.”

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