BALTIMORE (Sep. 8)
Vice President George Bush and Gov. Michael Dukakis have both rejected the concept of a Palestinian state, and have pledged to make the Middle East peace process a high priority if elected president.
In speeches delivered less than two hours apart to the 34th biennial convention of B’nai B’rith International here Wednesday, the two presidential candidates also soundly condemned anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.
This condemnation was more than routine since at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans last month, Jewish Republicans had charged that while the Republican platform rejected anti-Semitism, the Democratic platform was silent on the issue.
Dukakis noted that on Nov. 9, the day after the presidential election, the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht will be observed, marking the day when the Nazis broke the windows of Jewish homes and stores throughout Germany and Austria.
Dukakis said this event, which inaugurated the Holocaust, was greeted with indifference by the world.
“It is up to all of us, public officials and private citizens, to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism, racism, and every form of bigotry, whether in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York, or anywhere else in America,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.
“That is a responsibility we all share, but it is especially the responsibility of the president of the United States.”
Bush declared that as the United States approaches the next century, “it’s time to leave the tired old bigotry baggage behind us. There is no room in this country for racism or for anti-Semitism. Not in New York, not in Chicago, not anywhere in this great country.”
The Republican candidate stressed that “it’s the duty of every American, especially those who aspire to leadership, to condemn it wherever and whenever it appears. I condemn anti-Semitism now and I will always condemn it.”
Bush said he will continue the Reagan administration’s support for the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which hunts down and prosecutes Nazi war criminals who entered the United States illegally.
The statement on the OSI was not in Bush’s prepared text, and was apparently inserted because of a story appearing in the Washington Jewish Week Thursday regarding the composition of the Bush ’88 Coalition of American Nationalities, an ethnic coalition working for the Bush campaign.
The B’nai B’rith convention has since 1974 become a traditional forum for the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to outline their positions on issues of Jewish concern.
While Bush was frequently applauded, the reception by the 1,200 convention delegates was louder and warmer for Dukakis.
Both candidates stressed that peace can only come about through direct negotiations, and both promised to prevent any imposed solution on Israel.
Dukakis said that if elected, one of his first steps will be to appoint a special Middle East negotiator with instructions to “use every ounce of your energy to convince Arab leaders to negotiate peace with Israel.”
Both candidates promised to strengthen the strategic alliance with Israel, but they indicated a difference in their approach to the Arab countries.
“Even as strategic cooperation with Israel has gone forward, we have forged a stronger relationship with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other (Persian) Gulf states,” Bush said.
He said this demonstrated that “we can work constructively with those states and not diminish our relations with Israel. This is in our interest and it is also in Israel’s interest.”
But Dukakis noted that the Reagan administration has “sold AWACS to Saudi Arabia, Mavericks to Kuwait, Stingers to Bahrain and billions of additional dollars worth of sophisticated arms to Arab countries that refuse to make peace with Israel.”
‘NO’ TO ARAB SHOPPING LIST
He said that while Bush and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana, have supported these sales, “Lloyd Bentsen and I are going to say ‘no’ to Arab shopping lists that endanger the security of Israel.”
While Bush did not mention Jerusalem, Dukakis said “the Republican ticket does not acknowledge Israel’s sovereignty over its capital–an undivided Jerusalem. We do.”
Both candidates vowed to continue to press for the emigration of Soviet Jewry. Bush pointed to a large sign in the convention hall which said “Mr. Gorbachev: Where Do Soviet Jews Apply For Glasnost?”
“That sign says it all,” Bush said.
Dukakis did not refer to the sign, but he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, if glasnost can open Soviet society, why can’t it open the doors to free emigration by Soviet Jews?”
While the issue of the separation of church and state was a major source of contention between the presidential candidates at the B’nai B’rith convention four years ago, it was only briefly mentioned Wednesday.
Bush said that despite their differences, Americans agree on many things, including “reverence for the principle of separation of church and state.”
Dukakis said the American dream must be defended “against those strident voices from the radical right who would undermine the constitutional principles of individual liberty and the separation of church and state.”
In a speech to the convention Monday, Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, said that the Palestinian uprising on the West Bank and Gaza Strip “has shattered the illusion that the status quo is tenable” for either Israel or the Arab states,
“Force is not the answer, intimidation is not the answer, deportation of Palestinians is not the answer,” he said in a warning to Israel.
But he also called on the Palestinians to “face reality” and reject the lead of extremists who threaten violence and extremism against those who seek a dialogue with Israel.