BEVERLY HILLS (Nov. 3)
Hyman Bookbinder, the American Jewish Committee’s Washington representative, predicted that the new Congress would be "basically friendly" to Israel in the coming months, but he cautioned that unqualified American support for Israel on all issues could not be taken for granted and he admonished those concerned about Israel to heed American thinking if they wanted to champion Israel’s cause effectively.
In remarks prepared for delivery at the AJCommittee’s annual national executive council meeting, which opens tomorrow and concludes Sunday, Bookbinder asserted also that, despite its rejection by both Israel and the Arab nations, President Reagan’s peace plan would be the "basic vehicle for Middle East diplomacy" in the months ahead.
"How long, and how tightly the Reagan Administration will ‘stay the course’ with Mr. Reagan’s September peace initiative remains to be seen," said Bookbinder, "but it would appear imprudent for any of the parties to believe that Washington will soon abandon the plan."
However, he emphasized, President Reagan’s plan "does not necessarily affect other actions that will require attention by the Administration: the Camp David autonomy talks, the search for a new and free Lebanon, proposed arms sales to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and levels and conditions of American aid to Israel."
Stressing that recent events had "made it unmistakably clear that Washington will be the center for Middle East diplomacy in the months ahead," Bookbinder averred that Administration Middle East policy would, "as always, be shaped to a greater or lesser extent by the attitudes of the Congress and the American public generally, and by the Israeli and Arab constituencies in the nation."
NO BACKLASH DURING THE ELECTIONS
According to public opinion polls, Bookbinder went on, American support for Israel appeared to diminish during and after the recent Lebanese war. However, he pointed out, "there was no political backlash against pro-Israeli candidates in yesterday’s elections, and the new Congress will probably act on Middle East issues very much as the present one would. Basic support and identification with Israel, it is safe to assume, remains essentially intact in the new Congress."
Nevertheless, Bookbinder warned, "it would be a great mistake to take continued support on issues for granted," adding: "In the weeks prior to the Israeli Cabinet action ordering a full inquiry into the Beirut massacre, there were many signs of unhappiness and impatience with Israel from some of Israel’s best friends in both Congress and the Administration … If Israel’s Cabinet had not ordered that probe, there might well have been some political repercussions in this country."
The Israeli Cabinet action, he continued, "not only cut off American criticism of Israel, but inspired some of the most laudatory statements ever made about Israel. Many now said that the inquiry order proved that Israel was indeed a solid democracy whose leaders could not ignore the demands of its people that Israel live up to the high moral standards on which the nation was based."