Voting on Jewish Issues: Bentsen Vs. Quayle
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Voting on Jewish Issues: Bentsen Vs. Quayle

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While both vice presidential candidates are considered strong on Israel, neither of them was at the forefront in fighting for pro-Israel measures on and off the floor of the Senate, an analysis of their voting records shows.

Pro-Israel activist credit Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.) with playing a key role on the Senate Armed Services Committee in helping gain funding for joint U.S.-Israeli research on strategic defense, commonly known as "Star Wars."

They said Quayle helped set the cost-sharing formula for research on the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile, whereby the United States pays 80 percent and Israel 20 percent of the cost.

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) gets the credit, the Israeli activists said, for his role in implementing the 1985 U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area agreement.

Also, as Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Bentsen co-sponsored an amendment to the Trade Bill this year with Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.) that protects the agreement against protectionist measures in the Trade Bill itself.

On domestic issues, Bentsen gets more favorable marks from the largely Democratic Jewish activists, who were here holding their monthly meeting Wednesday while the Republican National Convention was taking place in New Orleans.

The consensus from the group was that both Vice President George Bush and Gov. Michael Dukakis picked two of the more conservative members of their respective parties.

On the issue of abortion, Bentsen defends women’s rights, unlike Quayle, who opposes it and even voted Sept. 30, 1987 to oppose the use of federal funds for abortions in cases of rape and incest.


Both have supported a constitutional amendment favoring prayer in public schools.

On Soviet Jewry, Bentsen opposes, while Quayle supports, the amendment by conservative colleague Sen. James McClure (R-Idaho) that some Jewish activists feel might gut the 1974 Jackson Vanik Amendment.

McClure’s measure would tie conferral of most-favored-nation status on the Soviet Union to overall Kremlin compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords, and not just to the treaty’s emigration standards.

On arms sales to Arab countries, they were not as consistently opposed to them as colleagues like Packwood and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

But Bentsen has opposed most of the key arms sales to Arab countries, while Quayle has not.

In 1981, Quayle helped President Reagan gain approval for the sale of AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia, while Bentsen opposed it.

In 1985, both sponsored a "sense of the Senate" resolution opposing a sale of advanced weapons to Jordan until it began peace negotiations with Israel.

Bentsen, and not Quayle, later joined 74 colleagues in formally opposing it.

In 1986, Quayle backed an arms sale to Saudi Arabia before and after Reagan vetoed a congressional effort to block it. Bentsen originally opposed it and was the first Democrat on the override vote to switch to the President’s side.

Pro-Israel analysts said they did not consider the vote on the override a "key vote," since the most objectionable component of the sale, Stinger missiles, had been removed.

Neither signed a joint resolution in June 1987 opposing the sale of 1,600 Maverick "D" missiles to Saudi Arabia, and in September, neither was among the 68 senators who signed a letter opposing the sale that prodded Reagan to remove the Mavericks from the arms package.


On foreign aid, both have less than perfect records, although Bentsen has been more likely to vote for a foreign aid package.

But pro-Israel activists said Quayle, who opposes allocations to multilateral organizations and to some countries in the bills, has told them he would vote for foreign aid to Israel if it were to receive its money on a separate vote.

On July 7, Quayle opposed the most recent foreign aid appropriations bill, along with about 14 colleagues. An analyst added that Quayle opposed two of the six most important foreign aid bills since he was elected to the Senate in 1980, and that he "almost always" opposed foreign aid bills while in the House.

Bentsen, by comparison, supported 20 of the 32 major foreign aid votes while in the Senate. He voted against six of them and did not vote on six others.

On the potpourri of related Jewish issues:

Both co-sponsored New York Sen. Daniel Moynihan’s 1984 Senate bill to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In 1985, Bentsen and Quayle both urged Reagan not to visit the military cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany, where members of the Waffen SS are buried.


Bentsen supported a 1987 bill to allow Jews in the military to wear yarmulkes; Quayle opposed it.

Both co-sponsored the 1987 bill to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s U.S. offices.

Neither were among the 30 senators signing the March letter to Secretary of State George Shultz supporting his then-promising peace initiative that in part criticized Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir as an obstacle to peace.

In April, to celebrate Israel’s 40th anniversary, Bentsen gave his final speech on Israel before his selection for the Democratic ticket.

"We do not approve of every Israeli action and they do not like all of our policies. But on the most basic issues— resistance to Communism, support for human rights, willingness to take risks for genuine peace, close cooperation on the most sensitive security matters–Israel and the United States have worked side by side," Bentsen said.

Quayle’s most recent Senate action relating to Israel came July 27, when he released a study compiled by his staff on the dangers of nuclear proliferation, based on recent news reports.

He spoke along with Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kan.) before passage– by a 97-0 vote–of a resolution calling on the People’s Republic of China to halt the sale of ballistic missiles and other offensive weapons to the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

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