WASHINGTON (May. 23)
America’s trade union leadership, honoring former Israeli Premier Golda Meir in an emotion-laden demonstration of solidarity with her and her country, demanded recognition by the Arab governments of Israel’s sovereignty as a Jewish State as the basis for movement towards peace in the Middle East.
The occasion was the AFL-CIO’s presentation here of its highest honor–the Philip Murray-William Green Award–to Mrs. Meir at a dinner Thursday night at the Shoreham Americana Hotel that drew an enthusiastic attendance of 1700 delegates and guests attending the labor federation’s community services program.
“Some are saying Israel is too rigid, not flexible enough.” ALF-CIO President George Meany said. “When you hear that, remember, this–when Israel’s neighbors have taken an oath, virtually in blood, to bring about Israel’s destruction as a sovereign state, the first requisite is a commitment of sovereignty to Israel, not by the United States, not by the Soviet Union, not in a combination of both of them but a sovereignty pledge by her neighbors. Then we will have a real foundation for peace in the Middle East.”
WILL BE THERE WHEN CHIPS ARE DOWN
Declaring the United States must continue to provide Israel with whatever material requirements she needs and not be “tied down by concessions that would destroy her.” Meany urged “pressure” on the Arab states to recognize Israel which “has the right to live.” The veteran unionist, reiterating that the American trade union movement will continue “to go all out to preserve Israel,” concluded with a direct pledge to Mrs. Meir: “I say to you, Golda, come what may, we will be there when the chips are down.”
AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Lane Kirkland, recalling the trade movement’s steadfast support for a Jewish homeland and Israel over the past 49 years, charged American corporations are abetting “a boycott and blockade,” of Israel in support of “the state of war” that “is maintained solely by the Arab states.” He decried pressures on Israel “to make concessions, concessions and concessions with no hope of an end to them.”
OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ULTIMATE PEACE
In her half-hour extemporaneous response, delivered in firm tones and no hesitation, Mrs. Meir expressed optimism for ultimate peace, observing that Egypt’s women will not tolerate Egypt’s poor health and economic conditions and continue to allow their sons to die in wars.
Challenging Israel’s critics, Mrs. Meir pointed out that Israel has asked for negotiations with the Arabs “not as victors or losers but as equals” since 1967 and declared: “I will never understand why at the United Nations not a voice is raised on this simple question of asking the Arabs to sit down with the Israelis and see if they are not prepared to settle.”
Noting the demands that both Israel and the Arabs must take risks for peace. Mrs. Meir asked what danger is there for Egypt when the Israelis are moving away from the Suez. She also asked why “not a voice is raised” in the United Nations on the violence in Lebanon with more than 20,000 dead and 50,000 wounded while Israel is being continually censured.
Remarking she had been told on her current visit here that the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are not liked here, she pointed out that her critic admitted that the Arabs want Israel to leave the territories without negotiating.
‘RETURN TO YOUR SENSES’
In presenting the Murray-Green award to Mrs. Meir, the first foreigner to receive it since it was established 20 years ago, Peter Bommarito, chairman of the AFL-CIO Community Services Committee, declared to Israel’s enemies, “this month of May is Mental Health Month–please take heed and return to your senses.” Washington’s Mayor Walter Washington, presented Mrs. Meir with a silver plaque on behalf of the city as a commemorative of America’s Bicentennial celebration.