Irving S. Shapiro, chairman of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., said yesterday that representatives of U.S. business and a leading Jewish organization were close to a compromise proposal for legislation to deal with the Arab boycott issue.
Shapiro arranged the series of meetings between the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and representatives of the Business Roundtable, an exclusive organization of 170 chief executives from American business.
"As a businessman who is Jewish and who has supported Israel," Shapiro said, "I was afraid that all the emotion would do Israel more harm than good."
Yesterday, a Senate Banking subcommittee held its second consecutive day of hearings on antiboycott legislation.Essentially, the legislation is aimed at prohibiting U.S. companies from cooperating in a boycott of U.S. companies blacklisted by the League of Arab States. What angers the Arabs is the feeling that the U.S. is interfering with their foreign policy.
Shapiro says the group he put together is trying to come up with ideas for legislation to deal with any boycott against the U.S., not just the current Arab situation.
The boycott issue was discussed by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and Saudi Arabian leaders in Riyadh last Saturday. Vance reportedly explained to the Saudis the political circumstances that led to the proposed antiboycott legislation.
While the Saudis were attentive, they did not back down from their position that certain strong antiboycott measures could force them to retaliate against the U.S. in oil exports and other trade.
Shapiro, in a telephone interview, said of his attempt to come up with a moderate approach: "We don't see Israel as a friend and the Arabs as enemies. We look at it as two friends of the U.S. who are having a controversy."
Three representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and three from business have been holding discussions since Jan. 28. That was when Shapiro brought together the ADL board with certain high-level members of the Round Table.
Vance, who is scheduled to testify on Monday before the Senate subcommittee considering the anti-boycott measures, pointed hopefully to the Shapiro effort during his Middle East trip.
And on Monday, Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.), who became a co-sponsor of one antiboycott measure, asked one ADL witness about the status of the Roundtable discussions.
Members of the ADL-Roundtable panel refused to discuss details of a proposed "statement of principal." But one participant did say that no two points in the 4 1/2-page document remained to be agreed upon. He said the document may be made public by the end of the week.
One member of the panel, Maxwell E. Greenberg, who is chairman of the ADL executive committee, testified for tough antiboycott legislation.
This militancy troubled at least one member of the ADL-Roundtable panel, which is seeking a more moderate approach. Greenberg was traveling and could not be reached for comment last night.
Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of antiboycott legislation, commented on Monday that, "This issue (boycotts) has generated as much emotion and pressure as I have ever seen."
It also has generated considerable confusion. For example, six states - New York, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio - have come up with their own versions of antiboycott laws.
These laws have driven businessmen in those states to favor federal legislation so long as it specifically pre-empts the troublesome state regulations.
A spokesman for the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry testified yesterday that the "proliferation of state laws . . . no two of them alike" has led "to virtual chaos among U.S. exporters."
He presented statistics that showed waterborne exports to the Arab Mideast from New York/New Jersey ports was off 5.5 per cent since New York passed its antiboycott legislation.