LOS ANGELES (Jun. 17)
President Bush warned Sunday that neither geography nor military power can guarantee Israel’s security.
And he said his Middle East peace initiative would succeed only “if the parties in the region muster the political will to make it happen.”
During a 13-minute speech at a fund-raising dinner for the Simon Wiesenthal Center here, the president appeared to be challenging the Israeli government’s refusal to contemplate territorial compromise and its seeming reluctance to take part in a peace conference with the Arab states.
But Bush also pledged that “Israel’s survival will be guaranteed,” and he said there is “no room in our world for persecution of a nation.”
The president also recalled that a visit to the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland had left him with a determination “not just to remember, but also to act.”
That visit, and his recollection of the Nazi era, had steeled his resolve to confront Iraq in Operation Desert Storm, he said.
Contemplating “what action to take against Saddam Hussein’s aggression, I thought of the world’s inaction those many years when first the army and then the SS marched into Poland,” Bush said. “It was on my mind as I had to make this fateful decision to send our sons and daughters into combat in the Gulf.”
Much of his speech was devoted to praising the deeds of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and Raoul Wallenberg, the Swede who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II before disappearing into the Soviet Gulag.
Wiesenthal, Bush said, had been among the first to speak out against Saddam Hussein’s brutality. In the case of Wallenberg, the president said he was committed “to have a full and final accounting of his precious life.”
VOWS TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM
Bush pledged with similar fervor to fight hate crimes and anti-Semitism. “The insidious ugliness of this cancer destroys the human spirit,” he said.
The president was given an ornate Cup of Elijah by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, in appreciation of the freedom of Ethiopian Jews in Operations Moses and Solomon.
The official honoree of the evening was body-builder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received the center’s National Leadership Award for his work on behalf of physical fitness and with prisoners and handicapped children.
He was also lauded for his support of the center’s projected Beit Hashoah (House of the Holocaust)/Museum of Tolerance, to which Schwarzenegger and his wife, TV news personality Maria Shriver, have pledged $250,000.
In his acceptance speech, Schwarzenegger paid tribute to his fellow Austrian, Simon Wiesenthal, whom he praised as his teacher and friend.
The evening was marked by the emotion and showmanship characteristic of the center’s public events.
It included a full-dress Marine color guard and an American flag stitched together secretly by inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp, which was carried into the ballroom of the Century Plaza Hotel by Holocaust survivors.
Some 1,500 guests contributed $1.4 million toward the $50 million goal for the Museum of Tolerance, it was announced.
Although center officials say that even before the latest addition, $42.5 million had been collected or pledged toward this goal, completion of the high-tech museum is proving a tougher task than anticipated.
Originally estimated to cost $24 million and to be finished in the summer of 1988, the opening date has been repeatedly postponed and is now scheduled for the spring of 1992.