WASHINGTON (Sep. 7)
The 81st annual convention of the Zionist Organization of American opens here tonight with addresses by Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Calif.) and Rabbi Joseph P. Sternstein, outgoing president of the ZOA. In remarks prepared for delivery, Cranston, a frequent critic of the Carter Administration’s Middle East policies, said he believes that “President Carter has shown great courage” in calling the summit conference at Camp David.
“This bold step is inkeeping with his total dedication to peace,” Cranston observed. He noted, however, that “I strongly opposed the sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the President himself has come around to recognizing that the sale might have been a mistake.” Cranston suggested, in his prepared speech, that “failure to reach some agreement at Camp David holds political perils for all parties, though in my judgment it need not be catastrophic for any of them.”
Sternstein, who is ending his second and final term as ZOA president, said in prepared remarks that the “world owes President Carter a debt of gratitude for convening” the Camp David summit. “Yet we cannot deny that there is an apprehensive mood in the American Jewish community. While we appreciate the President’s desire to be a full partner in these negotiations, we are concerned lest momentary difficulties… lead him and the Administration to impose ideas on Israel,” he said. Sternstein urged that “the suggestion of stationing troops or personnel in the area should be rejected.”
The ZOA leader also said: “It has become fashionable on the part of many prominent Jewish leaders to say ‘We are all Zionists.’ I welcome this avowal but I say to our friends, if you consider yourself a Zionist, then join our ranks, formally and officially, carrying the card of membership in the ZOA.”
Scheduled to deliver greetings on behalf of the Israeli government tonight is Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Yitzhak Modai. Harold Saunders, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, will deliver greetings on behalf of the Administration, and Theodore Mann, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will convey the greetings of that body. Henry Goldman, of Washington, will chair the convention to be attended by some 1000 delegates.
In an introduction to a report prepared for the convention by Leon Ilutovich, ZOA national executive director, the delegates were urged that after the convention they address themselves to several major areas of Zionist concern, including interdependence between Israel and American Jewry; religious pluralism in Israel; the problem of Soviet Jews who leave the USSR but do not go to Israel and the support they receive from some non-Zionist organizations; aliyah; and a clear-cut policy on the American Zionist movement.