WASHINGTON (Mar. 15)
Vice President George Bush declared today that the Reagon Administration’s efforts to broaden American influence among the Arab states and encourage moderate regimes was not "an anti-Israel policy."
"On the contrary, it’s enormously advantageous to Israel," Bush told the more than 1,500 young Jewish leaders from across the country attending the third annual United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Conference at the Washington Hilton.
Bush maintained that the U.S. interest in the Middle East "is in not allowing Soviet-backed radical states to threaten the stability of the region. It is in the interest of peace, in the interest of stability, that there be more Anwar Sadat’s — and fewer Qaddafis."
At the same time, Bush stressed that the U.S. and Israel are "strategic allies" and "permanent friends, joined by common values and aspirations." He said the Administration is committed to the security of Israel and to the "Camp David accords as the only way to wage peace" in the Mideast.
Mark Spiegel, of Los Angeles, in introducing Bush, noted that the Vice President was the highest ranking member of the Administration to speak to a Jewish group since President Reagan took office 14 months ago. He quipped that as a reward, he was presenting Bush with his own personal UJA pledge card.
REJECTS CHARGE OF DUAL LOYALTY
Bush opened his speech by dealing directly with the charge of dual loyalty aimed at American Jews during last year’s debate over the sale of AWACS to Saudi Arabia, a charge he called "scurrilous" and "outrageous." He said that those who made the charge "did a profound injustice to all Americans, whose birthright it is to dissent. And I reject as equally outrageous the nation that this charge came out of the White House."
Bush said he has discussed this issue "extensively" with Gordon Zacks of Columbus, a leading Jewish Republican, and with Jacob Stein, Reagan’s former liaison to the Jewish community. "To say that someone is disloyal to America because he or she has an abiding affection for another country is an insult," Bush said. "It’s offensive. And it’s just basically un-American."
During the three-day conference, sponsored by the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet and the Young Women’s Leadership Cabinet, which started yesterday, numerous speakers have expressed the outrage of the Jewish community at the disloyalty charges made during the AWACS debate. In his other remarks today, Bush praised Premier Menachem Begin and other Israeli leaders for "their determination to move forward with the Sinai withdrawal," a step he acknowledged as being "painful and controversial."
The Vice President said the U.S. is firm in its position on the Palestine Liberation Organization. "Unless and until the PLO renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel’s right to exist, we cannot and will not negotiate with the PLO," Bush said.
RAPS SOVIET ANTI-SEMITISM
He called the Soviet Union’s "mistreatment" of Jews "the most grievous form of anti-Semitism in the world today." But he noted that the most unfortunate victims of Soviet anti-Semitism are those like Anatoly Shcharansky who "continued to languish in the Gulog." He said both he and President Reagan have met with Shcharansky’s wife, Avital, and promised to do "everything we can to alleviate her husband’s plight."
Bush, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said one of his "greatest frustrations" at the UN was the "utter inability of that body to address itself to the continuing persecution of the Jews. I wish the UN wouldn’t waste time, talking about the expulsion of Israel, because the United States will never permit that," and instead address itself to "the real problems in the world."
At a banquet last night, the young Jewish leaders gave a standing ovation to Sens. John Heinz (R. Penn.) and Gary Hart (D. Col.) for their opposition last year to the sale of AWACS and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia. Herschel Blumberg, national chairman of the UJA, urged those attending the conference to "go back and be an advocate for Israel in your own community."