DALLAS (Nov. 13)
In a transparent bid to restore harmony between the Jewish community and the Carter Administration and to regain confidence in the Administration’s Middle East policy, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance sought to reassure some 2000 Jewish leaders here Thursday night that President Carter “is committed to Israel as a vision and as a reality.”
Vance also stated that the U.S. and Israel have “shared goals” for a lasting peace in the Middle East. But Vance emphasized that any constructive approach to this goal must proceed “not through the distortions of difference but from the perspective of proved friendship and mutual respect.”
Vance, in his address to the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds 46th General Assembly, asserted that the United States would do nothing to jeopardize Israel’s security by trying to exercise pressure through withholding military or economic assistance and that the U.S. will “continue to give Israel strong support in international bodies against those who would isolate her.”
In this connection, Vance said the U.S. “has served notice” that the U.S. will not participate in any United Nations conference on racism if any item on its agenda seeks to equate Zionism with racism. Vance, who made a special trip here from Washington, treaded cautiously through areas most sensitive to the Jewish people in this country regarding the Administration’s attitude towards the Palestinians at a reconvened Geneva conference and the role of the Soviet Union in the reconvening process.
During the day, there had been an undercurrent of tension and apprehension about what new formulations or nuances of policy Vance might introduce in his address. But his 20-minute address contained nothing new and was evidently couched in terms calculated to assuage the consternation, fear and apprehension which the Jewish community has been expressing over the Administration’s Mideast policy.
REPEATS CARTER ON PALESTINIANS
Vance avoided any but the most general statement about the Palestinians and referred to their “legitimate rights” only by way of recalling President Carter’s address to the World Jewish Congress meeting last week in Washington where the President had used that phrase and where he had also declared that “we ourselves do not prefer an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank.”
Vance sought to provide optimism for the chances of peace in the Middle East, the steps being taken to reconvene Geneva talks, but warned of the dire consequences to Israel and to the area if peace could not be achieved.
The Secretary asserted: “Now we stand at an important turning point. We believe that there is a chance–the first real chance in some time–that the processes leading toward lasting peace have been set in motion. We believe that peace between Israel and the Arabs can become real, not just a distant dream.”
Vance assured his audience, “We, for our part, will pursue our efforts to bring about negotiations to reconvene the Geneva conference as the parties ask, and to play a helpful role in encouraging the participants toward a future in which their children will never have to go to war again.”
In this connection, Vance refrained from specifying when a reconvened conference might take place. By omitting any time reference, it was apparent that Carter’s oft-expressed goal to see such a conference take place by the end of the year is not now viewed as viable.
CITES NEED FOR PEACE
Noting that Israel and the Arabs need and
He said “second, our country is fundamentally committed to the security and well-being of the State of Israel….This is a commitment of the heart as well as of policy. Third, we will not impose a settlement.”
In noting that there is hope and opportunity for peace, Vance observed that this is based on a number of changes since the 1967 Six-Day War: the rise of moderate leadership in the Arab world–“leadership which accepts Israel’s existence and is willing to talk of peace with Israel”; and “continuing economic hardships in all the nations affected reflect with vivid force the heavy burdens which tension and armed truces have placed the governments and the peoples of the Middle East.”
Vance cautioned that the tragedy of 1973, the Yom Kippur War, must not be repeated and noted that the events in southern Lebanon and Israel this week are the latest examples of “a new eruption of the violence which has proved so costly in human lives. These incidents serve urgent notice of the high human stake in the tasks before us.”
Vance did not identify the incidents, but it was clear he was referring to the terrorist rocket assaults on Nahariya which killed three Israelis and Israel’s retaliatory raid which resulted in the deaths of Lebanese.
Several hours earlier, Carter, at a press conference in Washington, refused to condemn Israel for its raid, saying it had been provoked. Vance, in his remarks, refrained from assigning blame to either side.
He asserted that negotiations toward “a comprehensive settlement” in the Mideast “would be based” on United. Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, but, he added, there are three issues which “are closely intertwined” and which “all the parties have accepted.”
These issues, he said, are: the nature of the peace to be established among the parties; withdrawal of troops from occupied territories and agreement on secure and recognized borders for all the states; and the resolution of the Palestinian question.
He warned that “if any of them were to be left unresolved, there would be no lasting peace.” He described the Palestinian question as a “difficult” one but asserted that “this question must be addressed” because “it would be all too easy for any settlement to be blocked on grounds that Palestinian concerns were not being properly considered.”
Vance refrained from specifying which Palestinians he had in mind and what role the U.S. feels they should play. He said, merely, “the parties themselves will discuss these and other ideas they may put forward in the negotiating process.”
Regarding the joint Oct. I U.S.-Soviet statement, which Vance termed “another sensitive element in our diplomatic efforts,” Vance noted that the U.S. and USSR have been from the start, cochairmen of the Geneva conference and “as such, we have sought to work constructively together to discharge our responsibilities.”
In addition, Vance noted that it is “useful that the Soviet government has now explicitly committed itself to the goal of ‘normal peaceful relations’ among Israel and the Arabs.” Moreover, he said, Soviet adherence to the positions outlined in the joint statement carries the diplomatic effort closer to what we all regard as the immediate objective: the commencement of direct, face-to-face negotiations among the Arabs and Israelis.”
The joint statement, Vance asserted, “makes no attempt to impose the outcome of negotiations.” It is not a complete statement of policy, he noted, regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and “is fully consistent with the basic points and principles of Resolutions 242 and 338.”
While Vance was generally well received, reactions afterwards by many who listened to him indicated that his bid to placate the Jewish community fell wide of being successful. As one Jewish leader remarked, “the best thing about his speech was that he avoided stepping on anyone’s toes and did not spring any surprises. Maybe the Administration is finally getting the point.”