Under a brilliantly clear autumn sky, the tensions of the Middle East were felt today at the Wall Street heliport.
President Carter flew out of that sky this morning, arriving at the heliport to begin two days of foreign policy activities at the United Nations. Waiting for him was a handful of New York dignitaries, among them Rep. Edward I. Koch, the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York, who clutched in his hand a letter for the President.
The letter was Koch's personal condemnation of last weekend's Soviet-American statement on a possible Middle East peace settlement.
Carter bounded from his Marine Corps helicopter and up to the dignitaries, beginning with outgoind New York Mayor Abraham Beame and then Koch. Koch thrust the letter into his hand.
But just as he did, White House press secretary Jody Powell positioned himself between the two men and a nearby knot of photographers and television cameramen, deliberately obstructing the view of the exchange. When it was over, Powell turned, smiled and winked at the photographers who had shouted for him to get out of the way.
The Soviet-American statement has caused an uproar in the American Jewish comunity because, among other things, its reference to "the legitimate rights of the Palestianian people" has been interperted as a shift away from total U.S. support for Israel.
In his letter, Koch said he feared the statement meant the United States "has abandoned its commitments to peace, to Jewish refugees, to protection of Israel." He called on Carter to end any U.S. alliance with the Soviet Union in connection with the Middle East, and charged that the Soviets are "bent on her [Israel's] destruction."
In Washington Tuesday there were new expressions of criticism of the Soviet-American statement from two Republican senators and B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organization.
Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), President Ford's running mate in last year's election, said the administration's avowed policy of applying "leverage" to gain progress toward a Mideast settlement is "blackmail" and "a disgrace to the United States."
Sen. Cliffod P. Case (R-N.J.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused the administration of adopting an ill-conceived policy, and noted that there had been no consultation with Congress before the Soviet-American statement was signed.
B'nai B'rith joined other Jewish organizations in condemning what it called "a reversal of [U.S.] policy" toward Israel.
The Washington representatives of Jewish organizations met yesterday to map strategy to fight the administration's new policy line, as did members of Congress friendly to Israel.