NEW YORK (Mar. 29)
Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee on Tuesday condemned the Chinese sale of intermediate-range missiles to Saudi Arabia and questioned the recent meeting between U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and two American members of the Palestine National Council.
His remarks received a warm reception from members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which hosted the Democrat presidential hopeful during an hour-long candidate’s forum, three weeks before the New York primary.
The appearance gave Gore another opportunity to improve his standing with Jewish voters, whom he has wooed recently by taking popular positions on the Middle East. The candidate has called for a strong U.S.-Israel partnership and has expressed skepticism about the details of Shultz’s recent peace initiative.
Gore also reminded the audience about his meeting with Shamir last Sunday in New York. Echoing a remark used often by Shamir during his U.S. visit, he said, “Peace in the Middle East will come only when the Arabs decide that improving the lives of Arabs is better than taking the lives of Jews.”
TRAILING DUKAKIS, JACKSON
Despite his strong showing in southern states on Super Tuesday, Gore trails Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts and the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the race for the nomination.
In his speech to the Conference of Presidents, Gore attempted to distinguish himself from those candidates with references to his 12 years of experience in the House and Senate. He criticized Jackson for what he called “his complete and total lack of experience in foreign policy.”
Gore called the sale of the Chinese-made CSS-2 missiles to Saudi Arabia, disclosed in the United States last week, “a dangerous development” that “seriously threatens stability” throughout the Middle East. He called on the United States to take a firm stand in limiting the sale of high technology to the Chinese.
Gore also said he sent a letter Monday to Shultz, questioning the secretary of state’s meeting Saturday with Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Palestinian-born academicians and members of the Palestine National Council, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s quasi-legislative body.
Gore called the academicians “Yasir Arafat’s emissaries” and in his letter said the meeting contained “elements of a surrogate discussion with the PLO,” which “severed the bond of trust between Americans and the people of Israel.”
He said Shamir’s rejections of the Shultz peace initiative “should be given sincere and respectful consideration.”
STAND ON INTERNATIONAL FORUM
“I’m not opposed to an international conference, or some type of international forum, but I have reservations about the Shultz proposal,” he said. “Will they really facilitate direct bilateral negotiations between Israel and Jordan, or will they complicate the situation or box in Israel?”
Gore concluded his prepared remarks with a list of campaign promises, including the appointment of a special ambassador to the Middle East, an increase in military cooperation between the United States and Israel, and firm stands in the Persian Gulf and against terrorism.
Pressed on his views of Jackson during the question-and-answer period that followed, Gore said he disagreed with Jackson that there should be an independent Palestinian state. Unlike Jackson, he said, “I do not believe there is a moral equivalent between Israel and the PLO.”
The campaign stop ended on a festive note, when Gore was presented with a picture book and a birthday cake by former conference Chairman Jack Stein. Gore, who will be 40 on Thursday, exited to a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You.”