Democratic Plank Has Surprises for Prospective Jewish Voters

“You can’t fault them on Israel,” a veteran Jewish organizational leader remarked about the Democrats after reading the Middle East plank in the party’s platform. It was hard to see how anyone could. Secure borders, a “long-term public commitment” on military equipment, “direct negotiations” between the parties, maintenance by the United States of a force to “deter the Soviet Union,” recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transfer of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City, “world community,” and responsibility for the problems of Arab and Jewish refugees–all these are in the 150-member Platform Committee’s majority report, which the convention will consider in Miami Beach beginning July 10.

Two minority reports also will be put to the convention. One, sponsored by history professor Stull Holt, a friend of Sen. Henry M. Jackson from his home state of Washington, would go further than the committee on deterrence of Soviet power. Holt wants American “military forces in Europe and at sea in the Mediterranean to be ample to deter the Soviet Union from putting unbearable pressures on Israel.” The other is from Gov. George C. Wallace of Albania, who made known officially for the first time what he thinks the US should do about the Middle East. His views were presented in the last hours after the committee had closed its books on foreign policy. The tactic was designed to preserve the Wallace views as a foundation for him or an aide to discuss in Miami Beach and meanwhile to avoid a preliminary floor fight in Washington which might make his position old hat by convention time.

During the deliberations the Wallace supporters did not object, at least openly, to the majority’s Middle East and Soviet Jewry assertions. Indeed, many of them seemed to be friendly but they were playing their politics tightly for Wallace. However, on the majority’s Soviet Jewry item, Mrs. Annie Laurie Gunter of Montgomery put in the Wallace view of support for Eastern European peoples and oppressed minorities in the Soviet Union, including Jews. In Wallace’s own report, Jews are not mentioned at all although they are included by implication among the “oppressed.” In opposition to Mrs. Gunter’s move the point was voiced that Soviet Jews are a special case. Of course they are, some observers felt, but including other ethnics broadens national appeal even if that might prick Soviet government feelings a bit more.

Wallace’s Middle East view suffers much in comparison with the majority report, specifically by the absence of mention of Jerusalem and the Arab and Jewish refugee problems and of direct reference to the Soviet Union. The generalities of his statement seemed to imply uncertainty of position on specific factors affecting the area. Nevertheless, the overall impression it gives is that he favors support for Israel–not, as former Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy had put it on “legal and moral” grounds but because it suits the US pragmatically. “First and foremost,” according to Wallace, Israel and the Arab nations should engage in “sincere negotiations” that will result in “binding, non-aggression agreements.” He speaks of American initiative and “initiating multilateral discussions,” but does not mention countries by name or the United Nations. Curiously, the majority report also omits both the UN and Security Council Resolution 242.

An intriguing point in the Wallace report could hardly be more vague. That is the passage on “free use of water and land routes throughout this area.” No more is said. However, he leaves no doubt of his desire to improve relations with the Arabs, talking twice in much the same language about earning “the respect and good will of Israel and the Arab nations alike.”

A puzzling aspect of the Washington meeting was the absence of top spokesmen on the Soviet Jewry issue. As it turned out, the majority report speaks of US “diplomatic contacts” to “mobilize world opinion” to help Soviet Jews and others, but American efforts within the UN have been taking place right along. Much more is needed than “contacts.” At a time when the Moscow summit seems to have produced a climate for trade expansion on a broad scale and exchange of cultural and scientific personnel to a record extent, no attempt was heard at injecting relief for Jews and others into such Soviet-American negotiations on the simple basis of insisting that the Soviet government live up to its international commitment’s on free movement of people.

Striking, too, was the complete absence of advocacy of plans to combat skyjacking and terrorism at international airports or any support for the airline pilots fighting to bring some sanity into civil aviation practices to safeguard aircraft passengers and crews. For a political party that depends so much on unions such omissions seem inexcusable. Neither was mention made of the International Genocide Convention, which has been lingering for years in the Senate despite strenuous efforts by Jews and others to have it ratified.

The question for the immediate future is: What will the Democratic convention do with the platform as it is now prepared? Generally, the talk is that the Middle East and Soviet Jewry items will probably be accepted without serious modification. And what will the Republicans do? Their position doubtlessly will remain undisclosed until after the Democrats adjourn.

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