Differing Views on Whether U.S. Has ‘credibility’ Under Carter to Press for Peace in the Mideast
Menu JTA Search

Differing Views on Whether U.S. Has ‘credibility’ Under Carter to Press for Peace in the Mideast

Download PDF for this date

Spokesmen for the three major candidates for the Presidency disagreed before an audience of leading clergymen from across the country today on whether the United States has the “credibility” under the Carter Administration to press for peace in the Middle East.

Robert Hunter, director of Middle East affairs for the National Security Council and an advisor to President Carter; Dr. Raymond Tanter, a University of Michigan political scientist who is one of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan’s Mideast advisors; and J. Owen Zurhellen Jr. a former diplomat who substituted for Patrick Lucey, independent candidate John Anderson’s Vice Presidential running mote, spoke at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith here in separate consecutive sessions.

Their appearance was part of a two-day National Religious Convocation in Support of Israel which began last night at the Halloran House and continued all day today at the ADL headquarters. The Rev. John Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, stressed that those present wanted to express “our concern for Israel” and the continuation of American policy in support of Israel “whoever may be elected.”

Both Lucey, whose speech was read by Zurbellen, and Tanter, charged that Carter’s concern with reaching a comprehensive settlement was caused a lack of progress in the Middle East. Hunter said that Carter has spent more time on seeking peace in the Mideast than on any other problem of his Presidency and stressed the President’s accomplishments in bringing about the Camp David accords.


Tanter charged that the Carter Administration had gone into office with a “Blueprint for disaster” in the Mideast because it sought a comprehensive settlement which he claimed gives a veto to the most “recalcitrant” of the Arabs. Tanter said that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat rescued this policy by going to Jerusalem thus allowing the Administration to achieve a “good outcome of bad policy.” But he said there was no guarantee that bad policy would be rescued in the future.

Tanter said a Reagan Administration would stress peace through strength which would more likely get Saudi Arabia and Jordan to join in the peace talks with Egypt and Israel.

Lucey said that the Administration’s “rigidity” in insisting on a comprehensive settlement has prevented the expansion of the Camp David accords. Hunter defended U.S. actions in the Mideast. He said the U.S. could not have prevented the war between Iran and Iraq but has kept it from spreading and assured that the flow of oil will continue through the Persian Gulf.

Hunter, who has participated in the autonomy talks between Israel and Egypt, said that the next stage is the hardest for Israel and that the Jewish State needs from the U.S. “understanding and support,” and not pressure. He said the U.S. has not pressured Israel.

The spokesmen for all three candidates said the U.S. will not recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as long as it continued to be a terrorist group and they also voiced opposition to a Palestinian state.


Tanter said Reagan believes that the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be decided in negotiations with Jordan. Hunter said that if an autonomous government is achieved for the West Bank and Gaza then the experiences of the next five years of Israelis and Palestinians living together under this agreement could result in finding a means for a settlement of the area.

Zurhellen, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, who formerly served in the U.S. Embassy in Israel, said neither Jordan nor the PLO could speak for the Palestinians. He said the decision for the Palestinians must be made by those who have remained in the West Bank and Gaza.

All three spokesmen stressed that Jerusalem must remain undivided. When Hunter was asked why the U.S. abstained Aug. 20 on the UN Security Council resolution attacking Israel for the Jerusalem Law, he noted that the U.S. needs votes in the General Assembly and Security Council in support of other issues, such as the hostages in Iran and Afghanistan. He said the U.S. did not approve of the Jerusalem Law because it “prejudged the final status of the city” but it felt the resolution was unfair and one-sided against Israel.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund