WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
President Reagan, while stressing his commitment to maintain strong close ties between the U.S. and Israel, urged American Jews today to support the sale of U.S. arms to Jordan.
"Such assistance to Jordan does not threaten Israel but enhances the prospects for Middle East peace by reducing the dangers of the radical threat" from Syria and Iran, the President said in a speech to the 2,000 persons from across the country who attended the 4th National United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Stephen Greenberg of South Orange, N.J., chairman of the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet, told Reagan that the organization is made up of Jewish men and women aged 40 and under who are members of the generation that "reaped" the benefits of the immigration to the U.S. by their parents and grandparents who came here seeking freedom and a better life. He noted that the UJA is committed to volunteerism and in 1983 raised more than $600 million and this year is 20 percent ahead of that figure.
Reagan, in his speech, at the conclusion of the three-day conference, discussed a wide range of issues, including a re-affirmation of the "long-standing American commitment" that the U.S. "will neither recognize nor negotiate" with the Palestine Liberation Organization until the PLO recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
But he did not mention his proposed constitutional amendment for voluntary prayer in public schools which he had been urging before various groups in recent weeks.
SPELLS OUT JORDAN’S NEEDS
Although Reagan was applauded several times, the audience was silent as he expressed the need for American arms to Jordan as a means of promoting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. "Jordan is crucial to the peace process," the President stressed.
"For that very reason, Jordan, like Israel, is confronted by Syria and faces military threats and terrorist attacks. Since the security of Jordan is crucial to the security of the entire region, it is in America’s strategic interest — and I believe it is in Israel’s strategic interest–for the U.S. to help meet Jordan’s legitimate need for defense against the growing power of Syria and Iran."
Reagan said that "Arab governments and the Palestinian Arabs must decide whether to reach peace with Israel through direct negotiations." He said he believed that if the Arabs do step forward, "Israel will once again have the courage to choose peace."
However, Reagan reiterated his belief that his September 1, 1982 Middle East peace initiative "remains the best option for all parties." He said: "It is time for the Arab world to negotiate directly with Israel and to recognize Israel’s right to exist. We hope the government of Israel will understand that continued settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza will make the peace process more difficult. Peace can only come through the give-and-take of direct negotiations."
While Reagan did not mention his Administration’s opposition to proposed legislation in Congress to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he did say that the "status of Jerusalem" was one of the issues to be negotiated in the peace talks. "Only the U.S. can advance this process," he said.
"If there is any hope for those negotiations, however, we must preserve our credibility as a fair-minded broker seeking a comprehensive solution," he said, echoing the Administration’s position against the embassy move. "We must not undermine our role," he said. On Israel itself, Reagan declared: "The friendship between Israel and the U.S. is closer and stronger today than ever before and I intend to keep it that way."
CITES STRONG U.S.-ISRAEL FRIENDSHIP
He noted that since he took office this relationship has grown and he pointed specifically to the new U.S.-Israel strategic relationship which "has been elevated and formalized"; the negotiations now going on to establish a free trade area between Israel and the U.S.; and the Administration’s proposal for 1985 that all economic and military aid to Israel will be a grant.
The President also noted that Israel’s closeness to the U.S. was demonstrated at the United Nations where even the NATO allies vote with the U.S. only six out of 10 times while Israel joins the U.S. nine out of 10 times.
Reagan received a standing ovation when he repeated his pledge that "If Israel is ever forced to walk out of the UN, the U.S. and Israel will walk out together."
U.S. WILL NOT TOLERATE ANTI-SEMITISM
He said that the anti-Zionism expressed at the UN "is just another mask for vicious anti-Semitism, and that’s something the U.S. will not tolerate." He declared that "silence is never an acceptable response to anti-Semitism," adding that the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, has "defended Israel and stood up for human rights with persistence and courage."
Reagan also rejected anti-Semitism in the U.S. "We must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic and religious bigotry, wherever they exist as unacceptable evils," he said.
PLIGHT OF SOVIET JEWRY CITED
The President urged "support" for "Soviet Jews in their struggle for basic rights" and called on "all Americans to observe the International Day of Concern for Soviet Jewry" this Thursday.
Reagan noted the "near standstill" of the emigration of Soviet Jews and the ban against learning Hebrew in the USSR. He specifically mentioned the plights of Jewish activists Anatoly Shcharansky, Lev Elbert and losif Begun. At the end of his address, Greenberg said he had been wearing a bracelet for three years in honor of Begun and he gave it to the President expressing the hope that it will provide better luck for the Jewish activists.
The President concluded his speech by saying that "This Sunday as Jews the world over observe Purim, they’ll celebrate not only the ancient deliverance of Jews from the wicked, but a modem joy as well — the miracle of the State of Israel. Permit me to join you and all Jews in your fervent and triumphant affirmation — Am Yisrael Chai!"