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Kennedy Criticizes View That Syria Has Been ‘helpful’ in the Mideast

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.) strongly criticized those who say that Syria has been “helpful” in the Middle East, especially when it comes to bringing about peaceful relations between Israel and the Arab states.

“The world knows the truth,” he told more than 500 Jewish leaders from the United States and Canada attending the 1984 Israel Bond national leadership conference at the Park Plaza Hotel. “Syria has been most helpful to tension and terrorism, to Soviet adventurism and to the war in Lebanon. And anyone in our government who thinks Syria has been helpful in any other way deserves to be swiftly helped from office.”

Kennedy was apparently referring to a statement by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy who told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee last July that Syria was playing a “helpful role” in Lebanon. He was immediately criticized by some of the subcommittee members. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations sent a telegram to Secretary of State George Shultz also critical of Murphy’s statement.

Shultz, in his reply, affirmed that Murphy “did not indicate any change in U.S. policy regarding either Lebanon or Syria” and recalled “only too well that Syria obstructed implementation of the May 17 (1983) agreement between Lebanon and Israel, and that Syria’s interest and ours were in fundamental conflict during that period. “Shultz added that “at the moment” Syrian interests have led them to support the “same goals” as the U.S., “albeit for different reasons than our own.”

THE KEY TO PEACE

Kennedy, in his address to the Israel Bond conference, declared that “The key to peace between Israel and the Arabs has been within reach for many years, and the Arabs could grasp that key at any time. Israel is ready now. Let its enemies now take the critical step back from the brink of recurring conflict.”

Kennedy, referring to the new government in Israel, said: “Today we all share the high hope for the national unity government that has just been approved — that together Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir will achieve a new spirit of cooperation which can make Israel truly invincible in the defense of freedom — and the pursuit of peace.”

CONDEMNS THE SOVIET UNION

Condemning the Soviets for their actions against Jewish dissidents, the Senator declared: “Soviets may shut down classes in Hebrew, or confiscate books of Jewish learning. They may imprison Zionists, and persecute innocent men and women whose only crime is that they believe in the God of their fathers. But they can never kill the idea of freedom.”

He concluded: “We renew our own resolve to advance the cause of Israel — for it is part of the cause of America Itself — of a world safe not only for our own country, but for the noblest and most decent aspirations of human existence.”

The Senator accepted the Bond Organization’s first Harry S Truman Centennial Award posthumously for his brother, President John F. Kennedy. The presentation was made by Billy Goldberg of Houston National Chairman of the Truman Centennial Awards program. At an earlies session of the four-day Israel Bond conference, which ended yesterday, Meir Rosenne, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, stated that “the establishment of a national unity government, enjoying a very large majority in the Knesset, will enable Israel to solve its economic problems, to ensure the security of its northern border and to proceed with the peace process.”

Rosenne declared that those political prophets who predicted that a divided Israel could not be unified were wrong. “There is no such thing as good Israelis or bad Israelis, “he said. “There are just people who want to live in a free land.”

“The unprecedented creation of a rotation system and the full parity in the structure of the government is the best evidence of the large national consensus in Israel and the ability of the political leaders of our country to place the interest of the people above any party considerations,” the Ambassador said.

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