DALLAS (Aug. 20)
The Republican national convention opened here today ready to renominate President Reagan and Vice President George Bush and to adopt a platform tomorrow night that reaffirms the United States "moral and strategic relationship with Israel."
But while the Republican Party will continue to stress the bipartisan support for Israel, on domestic issues, the platform, which is the most conservative in recent history, has some planks that have long been opposed by most American Jews, particularly school prayer.
However, the Republicans, who have made no secret that they expect to make major gains in the Jewish community this year, believe the platform does contain a major selling point, its strong opposition to quotas; especially since the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Walter Mondale, agreed to drop opposition to quotas as a means of gaining support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"Americans demand a civil rights policy premised on the letter of Civil Rights Act of 1964," the Republican platform states. "That law requires equal rights; and it is our policy to end discrimination on account of sex, race, color, creed or national origin….
"Just as we must guarantee opportunity, we oppose attempts to dictate results. We will resist efforts to replace equal rights with discriminatory quota systems and preferential treatment. Quotas are the most insidious form of discrimination: reverse discrimination against the innocent. We must always remember that, in a free society, different individual goals will yield different results.
OPPOSITION TO ANTI-SEMITISM
Before dealing with the quota issue, the platform includes the promised plank opposing anti-Semitism. "The Republican Party reaffirms its support of the pluralism and freedom that have been part and parcel of this great country. In so doing, it repudiates and completely dis?ssociates itself from people, or ganizations, publications and those entities which promulgate the practice of any form of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism or religious intolerance."
The Democratic Party failed to adopt a similar resolution at its convention or at the National Committee meeting following the convention. However, the executive committee of the National Committee, at the urging of Mondale, approved such a resolution two weeks ago in a telephone poll.
On school prayer, the platform says: "We have enacted legislation to guarantee equal access to student facilities by student religious groups. Mindful of our religious diversity, we reaffirm our commiment to the freedom of religion and speech guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and firmly support the rights of students to openly practice the same, including the right to engage in voluntary prayer in schools."
The Republican platform also favors a Constitutional Convention to adopt an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget, which the organized Jewish community has strongly opposed.
The platform urges Congress to pass the balanced budget amendment, noting that the Democrats oppose it. "If Congress fails to act on this issue, a Constitutional Convention should be convened to address only this issue in order to bring deficit spending under control," the platform states.
Jewish groups have opposed a Constitutional Convention because they fear it could begin rewriting the Constitution, including the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom which have been so vital to Jewish security in the U.S. While the Republican plank underlines the word "only" to stress that just the budget restriction would be addressed, some Constitutional experts have argued that a Constitutional Convention could not be limited to one issue.
U.S., ISRAEL CLOSER THAN EVER
In the Middle East section, the platform stresses that a strong Israel, aided by the U.S., is "the main obstacle to Soviet domination of the region" and "the sovereignty, security and integrity of the State of Isreal is a moral imperative." The platform contends that under Reagan, the U.S. and Israel "are closer than ever before."
The platform stresses that "Jerusalem should remain an undivided city, "but it does not call it the capital of Israel as does the Democratic platform. The Republicans also ignored the Democratic call for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
GOP MIDEAST PLATFORM
The GOP Mideast platform reads, in full:
"President Reagan’s Middle East policy has been flexible enough to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, yet consistent and credible so that all nations recognize our determination to protect our vital interests.
"The President’s skillful crisis management throughout the Iran-Iraq war has kept that conflict from damaging our vital interests. The President’s peace efforts have won strong bipartisan support and international applause. And his willingness to stand up to Libya has made peace-loving states in the region feel more secure.
"The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which surprised the Carter-Mondale Administration, brought Soviet forces less than 400 miles from the strategic straits of Hormuz. The selzure of American hostages in Iran that year caught the United States unprepared and unable to respond.
"Lebanon is still in turmoil, despite our best efforts to foster stability in that unhappy country. With the Syrian leadership increasingly subject to Soviet influence, and the Palestine Liberation Organization and its homicidal subsidiaries taking up residence in Syria, U.S. policy toward the region must remain vigilant and strong.
"Republicans reaffirm that the United States should not recognize or negotiate with the PLO so long as that organization continues to promote terrorism, rejects Israel’s right to exist and refuses to accept UN (Security Council) resolutions 242 and 338."
Continuing, the platform states: "the bedrock of that protection remains, as it has for over three decades, our moral and strategic relationship with Israel. We are allies in the defense of freedom. Israel’s strength, coupled with United States assistance, is the main obstacle to Soviet domination in the region. The sovereignty, security, and integrity of the State of Israel is a moral imperative. We pledge to help maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge over its adversaries.
"Today, relations between the United States and Israel, are closer than ever before. Under President Reagan, we have moved beyond mere words to extensive political military and diplomatic cooperation. U.S.-Israeli strategic planning groups are coordinating our joint defense efforts, and we are directly supporting projects to augment Israel’s defense industrial base. We support the legislation pending for an Israeli-U.S. free trade area.
"We recognize that attacks in the UN against Israel are but thinly disguised attacks against the United States, for it is our shared ideals and democratic way of life that is their true target. Thus, when a UN agency denied Israel’s right to participate, we withheld our financial support until that action was corrected. And we have worked behind the scenes and in public in other international organizations to defeat discriminatory attacks against our ally.
"Our determination to participate actively in the peace process, begun at Camp David, has won us support over the past four years from moderate Arab states. Israel’s partner in the Camp David accords, Egypt, with American support, has been a constructive force for stability. We pledge continued support to Egypt and other moderate regimes against Soviet and Libyan subversion, and we look to them to contribute to our efforts for a long-term settlement of the region’s destructive dispute.
"We believe that Jerusalem should remain an undivided city with free and unimpeded access to all the holy places by people of all faiths."
There is no mention of U.S. arms supplies to Saudi Arabia or other moderate Arab countries. The Democratic platform opposes the sale of sophisticated weapons to Arab countries who have refused to negotiate peace with Israel.
The platform also calls terrorism "a new form of warfare against the democracies." It points out that Reagan "has put the UN on notice that the U.S. will strongly oppose the use of the UN to foster anti-Semitism, Soviet espionage, and hostility to the United States."
CITES CAMPAIGN TO ERECT HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL
In another section, the platform says that "the Republican Party commends President Reagan for accepting the honorary chairmanship of the campaign to erect a U.S. Holocaust memorial in Washington, D.C. and supports the efforts of the U.S. Holocaust Council in erecting such a museum and educational center. The museum will bear witness to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust."
SUPPORT FOR SOVIET JEWRY
Support for Soviet Jewry is reaffirmed at the end of the section on the Soviet Union. "We will press for Soviet compliance with all international agreements, including the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the UN Declaration on Human Rights," the platform states.
"We will continue to protest Soviet anti-Semitism and human rights violations. We admire the courage of such people as Andrei Sakharov, his wife Yelena Bonner, Anatoly Shcharansky, Ida Nudel and Josef Begun, whose defiance of Soviet repression stands as a testament to the greatness of the human spirit.
"We will press the Soviet Union to permit free emigration of Jews, Christians, and oppressed national minorities. Finally, because the peoples of the Soviet empire share our hope for the future, we will strengthen our information channels to encourage them in their struggle for individual freedom, national self-determination and peace."