Asserting that his views and those of others are ignored in the administration's decision-making process on Middle East policy, Mark A. Siegel resigned from the White House staff yesterday and was praised by President Carter as "a fine young man and an excellent employe."
Siegel, 31, one of two deputies to Carter's chief political adviser, Hamilton Jordan, submitted his resignation in a two-page letter to the president that was made public yesterday.
Shortly after the letter was released, Carter told a nationally televised news conference that Siegel's resignation will not prompt a review of the administration's Middle East policies or the internal White House decision-making process.
The president also defended one aspect of U.S. policy that Siegel strongly objected to - the proposed "package" sale of American warplanes to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
"I have no apology at all to make for this proposal," he said.
Last week, Siegel told Jordan that he no longer would continue to serve as the White house's main link to the American Jewish community, where administration policy in the Middle East is a subject of intense debate and misgivings.
In the days since informing Jordan of that decision, Siegel said in his letter, "it has become clear to me that the consequences of that decision are such that I can no longer be effective in any capacity in this White House . . ."
Calling his resignation "an action of personal conscience," Siegel objected to the proposed arms sale to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and to a decision-making process in which he said there is a "lack of consideration of all views and options."
Siegel also asserted that while he was expected to defend administration policy before Jewish groups, he was not always provided with complete information about those policies and was not given "accurate information" by the National Security Council concerning the proposed sale of 60 sophisticated F15 fighter planes to the Saudis.
"My view of the joint responsibility - externally advocating the administration's policies while internally presenting a broader range of policy options - did not stand up to the test," Siegel said in his letter. "Clearly, I had no internal role, and with no such internal decision-making process role, became the one person on the White House staff who had as my primary responsibility the defense and advocacy of positions which I had no vocie in shaping, and occasionally but strongly disagreed with."
In an interview, Siegel said his reference to not having accurate information concerned "the offensive capability of the F15 (and) the Saudi air base at Tabuk." He would not elaborate.
Opponents of the sale have said F15s based at Tabuk would be able to reach Israel. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee yesterday that the 60 F15s would not be stationed at the base.
At his news conference, the president said the proposed Middle East arms sale package would not violate American commitments to Israel or alter the balance of power in the Middle East.
In addition to the 60 F15s for Saudi Arabia, the administration has proposed selling 15 F15s and 75 F16 fighter-bombers to Israel, and 50 F5E fighter-bombers to Egypt.
Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman told Washington Post editors yesterday that "there is some logic behind the Egyptian sale." But he strongly objected to the sale of F15s to the Saudis, suggesting that they could be "a very nice target" for Israeli planes should a new Middle East war erupt.
Weizman later conceded during a closed-door session with the House Armed Services Committee that the F5E, because of its short range, is a defensive weapon, but that the F15 could not be regarded as defensive.
The president replied to Siegel's letter of resignation with a four-paragraph letter of his own.
"Your decision of principle is one understand and will honor," he said. "I know your decision to leave the White House was difficult. I regret that decision, but I respect it, as I do your ability and integrity."
Siegel, a former executive director of the Democtratic National Committee, is expected t remain at the White House for a few weeks to complete work on on going projects. He said he does not know what he will do when he leaves the White House.