Interior Secretary James G. Watt yesterday continued his rapprochement with American Jewish leaders who had denounced his controversial letter on energy policy to Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens.
During a private breakfast meeting in Washington with officials of the American Jewish Committee's energy panel, Watt said his hotly contested offshore oil drilling program is environmentally safe and strategically essential. Afterward the head of the panel said in a statement that the policy "should have the support of the American people."
The statement called Watt's accelerated coastal leasing program "an important element of an American energy policy that decreases U.S. energy vulnerability." It said the Jewish leaders believed the program could be conducted "in an environmentally benign manner."
"It was a cordial, constructive meeting and we welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the secretary," the statement said.
On Wednesday, Watt made a similar presentation to leaders of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in New York. There he also apologized for the Arens letter, and ADL leaders afterward said they considered the matter closed. They took no position on the drilling program.
In the June 17 letter Watt suggested that the ability of the United States to support Israel could be jeopardized by opposition from liberal Jews to the administration's accelerated energy development plans. Some American Jews considered this a threat made against them through the ambassador.