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August 21, 1987 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-08-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRIDAY, AUG. 21, 1987

JAMES DAVID BESSER

Special to The Jewish News

W

ashington — Now
that Congress has
huffed and puffed
its way to summer recess, of-
ficial Washington is beginn-
ing to consider the heavy
agenda that will await the
legislators when they return
on September 9.
In addition to the endless
hand-wringing over the
federal deficit and the ex-
pected wrangle over the
respective roles of Congress
and the White House in
foreign-affairs policymaking,
a number of issues with
special significance to the
Jewish community will figure
prominently on the
legislative calendar.
Already, the pro-Israel com-
munity is mobilizing to op-
pose the latest version of the
Administration's plan to
supply the government of
Saudi Arabia with an array of
advanced weapons. The issue
was reignited this week by a
Washington Post story re-
vealing Administration plans
to sell $1 billion worth of ad-
vanced weaponry to the
Saudis. Included in this total
are the 1600 Maverick anti-.
tank missiles that were the
objects of the last arms-sale
uproar back in June, 14 state-
of-the-art F15 jet fighters, and
equipment to update the rest
of that country's F15 fleet.
But other sources indicate
that while another arms sale
proposal is imminent, the
details of that sale have not
yet been determined by the
Administration.
There are also indications
that this time around, the Ad-
ministration may take a soft-
er approach in presenting the
issue to Congress. According
to several sources with a big
pro-Israel group here, the Ad-
ministration will attempt to
develop a consensus among
Republican legislators before
beginning the formal notifica-
tion process, the first step in
securing the required con-
gressional approval. This
strategy apparently is de-
signed to avoid the kind of
head bashing between the
executive -and legislative
branches that characterized
previous Administration
arms-sale proposals.
Hyman Bookbinder of the
American Jewish Committee
reinforced the idea that the
Administration would be
more cautious this time. "I

Robert Bork: No smoking gun.

was in touch with key officials
in the Administration this
morning," Bookbinder said,
"and they assure us there will
be adequate consultation
with Congress and with the
Jewish community before this
proposal is officially sent up.
But unless they can present
new and valid reasons why a
sale to the Saudis is impor-
tant in terms of our interests
in the Middle East, I don't
think Congress will go along
with the sale. And I predict
the Jewish community will
not fall for just a generalized
statement about how we need
to sell them arms so they will
be our good friends."
There have also been sug-
gestions that the Post story
was the result of a deliberate
leak designed to determine
whether the intensifying
crisis in the Persian Gulf has
softened congressional hostil-
ity to advanced arms for the
Saudis. "It may very well be
that this was a test balloon to
see how everybody is. reacting
in light of the Persian Gulf
situation," said Mark
Talisman, director _of the
Council of Jewish Federa-
tion's Washington Action Of-
fice. "HI were running things
in the Administration, that's
the way I'd do it. But the fact
that it may be a test balloon
doesn't make the danger any
less real.I take these stories
very seriously."
Another issue certain to
generate a lot of noise is the
nomination of Robert Bork to
the Supreme Court. But in
this case, the Jewish compo-
nent of the issue seems to be
fading away, although a
number of Jewish groups are
maintaining a high profile in
the ongoing discussion.
When the nomination was
announced, there was a

strong expectation among
Jewish activists that Bork's
judicial record would reveal a
"smoking gun" making him
unacceptable to Jews of every
political persuasion. The con-
ventional wisdom was that
Judge Bork's record on
church-state issues would pro-
vide ample ammunition for
his opponents.
But the smoking gun hasn't
materialized, despite inten-
sive scrutiny of Bork's
speeches, writings and ju-
dicial opinions. In fact, Bork
has not had to deal with the
issue as a judge, and his
public statements on the
issue have been ambiguous.
"There just hasn't been one
decision or one speech that
would galvanize the Jewish
community in opposing the
man," said one Jewish ac-
tivist on the Hill who has
worked hard to organize op-
position to the nomination.
"-But it's important to look at
the totality of the man. We
still believe that his nomina-
tion represents a threat to all
minorities—including Jews.
We still believe that his inter-
pretation of the Constitution
would allow for things like
school prayer. But we haven't
found any information that
will make it easy to make this
case when the nomination
goes to the Judiciary Com-
mittee."
As it stands, the issue is
shaping up along traditional
liberal-conservative lines, and
no Jewish consensus has
developed to cut across those
lines. Most Jewish groups are
still taking a wait-and-see
attitude.
Another major battle is
brewing over the issue of
catastrophic health insur-
ance. A bill passed the House
in July, and is now being con-
sidered by the Senate
Finance Committee. "This is
something the Jewish com-
munity really needs to get in-
volved in," according to Marc
Pearl, Washington represen-
tative for the American
Jewish Congress. "The me-
dian age of the Jewish com-
munity is much greater than
that of the community at
large. The Jewish community
cannot afford to delegate its
responsibility to other groups;
we need to take an active role
in shaping this legislation
and helping it through Con-
gress. The current bill doesn't
go far enough—but in light of
the administration's position
on the issue, it is the best we
can do, and it needs our sup-
port."

.

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