New Speaker of the House Considered Friend of Israel
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New Speaker of the House Considered Friend of Israel

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Rep. Thomas Foley (D-Wash.), who was elected speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, is considered a good friend of Israel and supporter of issues of concern to the Jewish community.

Foley was named by the House to replace Rep. Jim Wright (D-Texas), who resigned as speaker after being charged with ethics violations.

The 60-year-old congressman from Spokane was majority leader during the little more than two years Wright was speaker. He is highly respected by both Democrats and Republicans and is known as a conciliator and consensus-builder.

“We are pleased that he has been elected as speaker of the House,” said Jess Hordes, director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

“He has always been open to the Jewish community. He’s been supportive of issues of concern to us.”

David Harris, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, also said that Foley was “a welcome choice.”

“Basically the man is a friend,” Harris said. “He has been there on many of the issues of concern to the American Jewish community, including Israel and Soviet Jewry.”

Sammie Moshenberg, Washington representative of the National Council of Jewish Women, said Foley has been “generally supportive of a lot of our issues.”

She expressed the hope that he would move the House forward on the many domestic issues that need attention, such as child care and help for low-income people and the elderly.

Foley, who is considered a protege of the late Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.), has been a strong supporter of Israel since he first came to the House in 1965. He has supported all foreign-aid legislation and has worked to build coalitions in support of the aid packages. He has also voted against across-the-board cuts in foreign aid.


Foley has opposed every arms sale to Arab states hostile to Israel, including the 1981 sales of AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia. In 1985, he co-sponsored a resolution to disapprove an arms sale to Jordan; in 1986, he co-sponsored a resolution against a Saudi missile sale.

In 1987, when the Reagan administration proposed an arms sale to the Saudis that contained 1,600 Maverick surface-to-air missiles, Foley co-sponsored a resolution disapproving the sale. When the sale was reintroduced, Foley was among House members who wrote a letter to President Reagan that helped persuade the administration to remove the missiles from the sale.

Foley has also co-sponsored resolutions upholding Israel’s rights in the United Nations, supported measures aimed against the Arab economic boycott of Israel and has voted for resolutions to have the United States move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

He did not sponsor the resolution to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s information office in Washington.

After the Palestinian uprising began in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Foley said that it was “misplaced” to blame Israel for it. “It is Israel which has sought peace,” he said.

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