Protests from local Jewish leaders have forced Litton Industries back to the drawing board again over its plans to bring 100 young Saudi Arabians to a Los Angeles suburb.
The City Council of Thousand Oaks, in Ventura County just northwest of Los Angeles, declined last week to approve a local developer's request for a zone change converting an office building into dormitories for the Saudis, who would be trained to operate air defense communications systems that Litton will build in Saudi Arabia under a $1.6 billion contract with the Saudi government.
It was the second blow to Litton's plan to bring Saudi trainess into the area, and showed the difficulties of involving American residential communities in the growing U.S. security relationship with Arab nations.An earlier proposal to house the trainees in a motel Litton planned to build in nearby Simi Valley was blocked by the local planning commission after Jewish leaders there made similar objections.
The original plan was to train the Saudis at two buildings recently constructed in Agoura, near Thousand Oaks, at Litton's Data Command Systems division. But before the the Thousand Oaks City Council ever met on the issue, the proposal was front-page news in local newspapers, and drew fire from community leaders.
Opponents of the dormitory plan suggested the presence of the Saudis would increase anti-Semitic tensions.
Rabbi Elliot Holin of Temple Adat Elohim said in a letter to the council: "I seriously doubt whether Saudi Arabian military personnel are prepared to distinguish between the Jews of Israel and those of the Conejo Valley. To them, we are the enemy as well."
"I do not believe that the presence of military personnel who are sworn to follow their leaders' cries for a holy war against the Jewish people would benefit our valley . . . ."
After the council meeting, Thousand Oaks Mayor Lawrence Horner said the issue had "been blown out of proportion," and what had really been at issue was "a simple zone-change request" from "an opportunistic developer."
Rabbi Holin, however, contended that "the issue was that Litton was interested in housing Saudi trainees. That's the way the issue was floated publicly in the local press."
C.S. Evans Jr., Litton's director of real estate and construction, said in an interview that Litton expects Saudi cadets to arrive in the United States for training in June, 1982, although Litton does not as yet have any place to house them. The program would bring in 100 Saudi trainees every year for five to seven years.
Evans said "it might very well be" that Litton will end up training the Saudi students in their own country.