NEW YORK (Jul. 13)
The Democratic Party’s expected vice presidential nominee got a resounding welcome Monday at a reception for delegates to the party’s convention here that was sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.), who has a staunchly pro-Israel record, was introduced by AIPAC leaders with extravagant accolades.
“He is a great leader and one of the best friends of the pro-Israel community,” said David Steiner, president of the pro-Israel lobby.
But Gore then delivered a speech that made no mention of Israel, surprising many listeners.
Instead, in one of his first official appearances at the convention, Gore issued a standard rallying cry aimed at galvanizing the rank and file to work for new presidential leadership.
“The stakes are very high, make no mistake about that,” the senator said. “The words of the Scripture are true. Where there is no vision, people shall perish.”
“Part of the legacy of the failed leadership of the Bush-Quayle administration is that so many Americans have been tempted to give up,” said Gore.
“The answer to the cynics must come from you,” he said. “This will not be the kind of election where the American people can make the right decision with good people staying on the sidelines.
“I want to ask every last one of you to search your hearts” he said, and remove any impediment to giving everything “to this winning effort.”
“I am asking you from the bottom of my heart,” he said, to help the country effect a change that is “so desperately needed.”
“We can make a difference,” he said.
‘A BAD OVERSIGHT’
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called the failure to mention Israel “a bad oversight or a mistake in judgment.”
But he said it is far from irreparable, “given Gore’s outstanding record and the strong (pro-Israel) party platform.”
Hoenlein said he had heard the speech was not about Israel to avoid the appearance before a national audience of pandering.
“That’s not the way to address a vital issue,” he said. But “I don’t believe Al Gore is reluctant to be out-front on Israel.
Sources inside Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign said the Gore speech was meant to be broad and to energize Democrats to “roll up their sleeves” and go to work for the cause. It did not have to spell out Gore’s “credentials” on Israel because they are so well known, they said.
“He has a record that speaks for itself,” said one.
“He had nothing to prove,” said another.
In an appearance Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week With David Brinkley,” Gore refused to be drawn into some of Israel’s sensitive political intricacies and reiterated the party’s support for the Arab-Israeli peace process.
“The future of Israel and the occupied territories will be for the parties to determine,” he said. “Our policy should not be to make that decision in Washington but to create the conditions that are conducive to the parties themselves.”
Gore was scheduled to be nominated formally Thursday night as vice president, but already he appears to have given Clinton a lift, judging by polls taken since the ticket was announced July 9.
Sharing AIPAC’s podium with Gore, among others, were Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who had been a contender for the No. 2 spot on the party ticket; Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), chairman of the platform drafting subcommittee responsible for the pro-Israel language in the Middle East plank; and Tom Dine, AIPAC’s executive director.
Hamilton, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he expected the United States to provide Israel this fall with loan guarantees to help Israel absorb immigrants. He also was optimistic about the Arab-Israeli peace talks.
“The stage is now set for a quicker pace for the talks,” he said, referring to the expedited timetable embraced by newly installed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
He said that if Rabin halts Jewish settlements in the territories for a year, as he has indicated he might, “the Arabs should respond with immediate confidence-building measures, including a suspension or end of the boycott” against Israel.