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Bush Administration Promises to Push Religious Right’s Agenda

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A key domestic adviser to President Bush said Monday he expects the administration will push various aspects of the religious right’s agenda, including vouchers for children attending parochial schools.

James Pinkerton, assistant to the president for planning, told United Synagogue of America leaders that “the religious right is a big part of the Republican Party.”

“Their agenda,” he added, “is much broader than prayer in schools or abortion. We look for their help on issues like no new taxes and a strong defense, so I certainly think that aspects of the religious right’s agenda we are going to be pushing, they are your agenda.”

United Synagogue of America President Franklin Kreutzer later clarified to Pinkerton that the Conservative Judaism group’s domestic agenda is not tied to either political party.

Also speaking to the group were Richard Schifter, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs; El Sayed Abdel Raouf el-Reedy, the Egyptian ambassador to the United States; John Hirsch, director of the State Department’s Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs; Richard Haass, senior director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council; and David Harris, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee.

Pinkerton praised Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich for urging other states to support tuition tax credits, as is legal in his state, in a New York Times op-ed piece Monday.

QUESTIONED ON ABORTION

“We are reasonably confident that this is such a popular proposition with the American people that we are going to go forward,” Pinkerton said. “It is completely in tune with conservative principles of this administration.”

A “recipe for a kinder, gentler nation” is the decentralized tax credit, which “puts the power in the hands of parents,” Pinkerton added.

Asked how Bush’s opposition to abortion creates a “kinder, gentler nation” for women, Pinkerton said the president does so by promoting programs “that would prevent women from getting pregnant in the first place.”

“We think that right to life, the right of the unborn, is part of the kinder, gentler nation,” he said.

On the Middle East, Ambassador Reedy told the Jewish group, “Everybody in Israel now seems to accept that the status quo is untenable.” Other parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, “are also tired of war,” he said. “That is why we have now the PLO having undergone a transformation.”

The PLO now accepts the idea of a two-state solution “irrevocably” and U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, “which they never accepted before,” he said.

Asked when Arab countries will recognize Israel’s right to exist, Reedy said they “certainly” do, although relations will only be established when there is peace. “Then Israel will be totally accepted, integrated, having relations with all Arab countries,” he said.

The envoy also said Egypt does not want the Gaza Strip back, saying it “should become the Palestinian entity,” along with the West Bank.

Addressing the plight of Soviet Jews, Schifter said between 10 percent and 50 percent of the Soviet Union’s 2 million Jews want to leave.

“Most of the barriers have been lifted,” Schifter said. The two remaining restrictions are on those who were privy to state secrets or those with parents who do not give their consent for their offspring to emigrate.

Schifter quoted Israeli government figures that there are about 600 refusenik families left, with an estimated four to five members in each, for a total of as many as 3,000 refuseniks. He predicted that Soviet Jewish emigration will be “in excess of 40,000″ in 1989.

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