Marck A. Siegel, who for months has borne the brunt of Jewish criticism of President Carter's Middle East policies, has resigned his role as White House link to the American Jewish community for what he described as personal reasons.
Siegel will remain on the White House staff as one of the two deputies to Hamilton Jordan, the president's chief political adviser. But last week, in what he described as a "carefully thought out decision," he informed Jordan that he would no longer serve as the administration's point man in dealing with the Jewish community on the explosive Middle East situation.
Siegel, who said he did not know who would replace hin in the liaison role, would not elaborate on the reasons for his decision.
Siegel's resignation as the White House contact with Jewish groups comes at a particularly crucial time in the Middle East peace negotiations process. Next week, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is scheduled to be in Washington for talks with Carter.
At those discussions, the president is expected to press Begin for some concessions on the issue of Jewish settlements in occupied Arab territories, particularly along the West Bank of the Jordan River.
Moreover, the administration is now in the midst of pushing a complex Middle East arems sale package involving the supplying of American warplanes not only to Israel but to the Arab nations of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
These developments and other aspects of the administration's Middle East policy have caused deep concern among American Jews, who inturn have transmitted their skepticism and unhappiness to the White House through Siegel.
Last week, for example, Siegel was booed and hissed at a Washington meeting of the United Jewish Appeal when he sought to defend the administration's policies toward the Jewish settlements and the proposed sale of sophisticated F15 fighter planes to the Saudis.
Asked yesterday whether that incidents had anything to do with his decision, Siegel said, "Not directly." He described the decision as "personal and careful," but would no elaborate.
Over the months, Siegel has complained privately to friends about the difficulty of his role in seeking to explain Carter's Middle East policies to his Jewish contacts. He has also harbored a ddep distrust of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the president's national security affairs adviser, blaming Brzezinski for those aspects of the administration's policies that have drawn the most criticism from Jewish groups.
But Siegel was always comforted by the fact that he worked directly for Jordon and appeared to have Jordon's full trust. One of the ironies of his decision is that it comes at a time when Jordon's own role in foreign policy is being expanded on orders from Carter,
The president's two most senior Jewish aides, White House counsel Robert Lipshutz and domestic policy adviser Stuart Eizentat, have also dealt with Jewish groups on the Middle East and may now pick up some of the slack left by Siegel's resignation.
Siegel, however, carried the brunt of the load and was uniquely qualified for the task. He is a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee who had extensive national contacts with Jewish leaders through his work with the party.
At a breakfast with reporters, former DNC chairman Robert Strauss conceded that the president's Middle East policies have cost him support in the Jewish community.
"But I think there is considerable support also for the president in the Jewish community," he added. "There is considerable lack of support among American Jews for Begin, and I share that view. I have spoken up and so have other distinguished Jews, other distinguished leaders."