At the Democratic Party Convention: Mideast Issue Takes Back Seat

The Democratic Party apparently does not expect the Middle East to be a major issue in this year’s Presidential campaign, although the party’s candidates are expected to remind voters of the period when the Reagan Administration was castigating Israel.

This can be seen from the opening of the Democratic national convention last night and from the party’s platform schedule to be adopted tonight. New York Governor Mario Cuomo barely mentioned the Mideast in his keynote address which was largely devoted to domestic U.S. issues and the fear that President Reagan’s policies could lead to a nuclear war.

Cuomo’s one comment about Israel was, "We have been less than zealous in our support of our only real friend we have in the Middle East, the only democracy there, our flesh and blood ally, the State of Israel."

Former President Jimmy Carter, who also spoke last night, did not mention the Mideast in a speech which criticized Reagan for abandoning the Carter Administration’s concern with human rights.

However, Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, who introduced Carter, praised the former President as a "peacemaker" for bringing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin together at Camp David. Cuomo also noted Carter’s accomplishment in bringing about "the nearly miraculous Camp David peace accords."

ISSUE OF THE U.S. EMBASSY IN ISRAEL

With both former Vice President Walter Mondale, who is expected to be nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate for President tomorrow night, and President Reagan considered strong friends of Israel, and with both parties expected to adopt strong planks in support of the Jewish State, the major difference may be over the status of the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

The Democratic platform endorses moving the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But while in 1980 Carter said he would not abide by that plank, Mondale is on record as saying that he would move the Embassy if elected. Reagan has up to now opposed any move pending a negotiated Mideast settlement.

DEMOCRATIC MIDEAST PLATFORM

The Democratic platform accuses Reagan of vacillating in the Mideast. "He has had as many Middle East policies as he had staff turnovers," the platform charges. "First, he offered strategic cooperation to Israel as if it were a gift. Then he took it away to punish Israel as if it were not our ally. Then he pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions to Jordan. Then he demanded that Israel withdraw from Lebanon. Then he pleaded with them to stay. Then he did not accept their offer of medical help for our wounded marines.

"He undercut American credibility throughout the Middle East by declaring Lebanon a vital interest to the United States and then withdrawing."

The platform then stresses that "the Democratic Party believes that the security of Israel and the pursuit of peace in the Middle East are fundamental priorities for American foreign policy. Israel remains more than a trusted friend, a steady ally, and a sister democracy. Israel is strategically important to the United States, and we must enter into meaningful strategic cooperation.

"The Democratic Party opposes this Administration’s sales of highly advanced weaponry to avowed enemies of Israel, such as AWACS aircraft and Stinger missiles to Saudi Arabia. While helping to meet the legitimate defensive needs of states aligned with our nation, we must ensure Israel’s military edge over any combination of Middle East confrontation states.

"The Democratic Party opposes any consideration of negotiations with the PLO unless the PLO abandons terrorism, recognizes the State of Israel, and adheres to UN Resolutions 242 and 338."

FAVORS JERUSALEM AS ISRAEL’S CAPITAL

The platform also states that "Jerusalem should remain forever undivided with free access to the holy places of all faiths. As stated in the 1976 and 1980 platforms, the Democratic Party recognizes and supports the established status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. As a symbol of this stand, the U.S. Embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "The Democratic Party condemns this Administration’s failure to maintain a high-level-special negotiator for the Middle East, and believes that the Camp David process must be taken up again with great urgency.

"No nation in the Middle East can afford to wait until a new war brings even worse destruction. Once again we applaud and support the example of both Israel and Egypt in taking bold steps for peace. We believe that the United States should press for negotiations among Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

"We re-emphasize the fundamental principle that the prerequisite for a lasting peace in the Middle East remains an Israel with secure and defensible borders, strong beyond a shadow of doubt; that the basis for peace is the unequivocal recognition of Israel’s right to exist by all other states; and that there should be a resolution of the Palestinian issue."

SOVIETS HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD CONDEMNED

The platform also "condemns continued Soviet persecution of dissidents and refuseniks, which may well have brought Nobel Laureate Andrei Sakharov and his wife to the verge of death in internal exile in Gorki. We will not be silent when Soviet actions, such as imprisonment of Anatoly Shcharansky and Ida Nudel and thousands of others, demonstrate the fundamentally repressive and anti-Semitic nature of the Soviet regime.

"A Democratic Administration will give priority to securing the freedom to emigrate for these brave men and women of conscience, including Jews and other minorities, and to assure their fair treatment while awaiting permission to leave. These freedoms are guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the Helsinki Final Act which the Soviets have signed and with whose provisions they must be required to comply.

"Jewish emigration, which reached the level of fifty thousand per year during the last Democratic Administration and which has virtually ended under its Repub- lican successor, must be renewed through firm, effective diplomacy. We also recognize that Jewish emigration reached its height at the same time there was an American Administration dedicated to pursuing arms control, expanding mutually beneficial trade and reducing tensions with the Soviet Union — fully consistent with the interests of the United States and its allies. It is no contradiction to say that while pursuing an end to the arms race and reducing East-West tensions, we can also advance the cause of Soviet Jewish emigration."

The platform also criticizes Reagan for being "the first President to fail to support publicly the ratification of the Genocide Convention."

Last night, two Jews who are Mayors in opposite ends of the country also participated in the opening session of the convention. Dianne Feinstein, the Mayor of the host city, welcomed the delegates to the convention, and Edward Koch of New York, who hosted the previous convention, stressed the need to wage a war on drugs.

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