Presidential Hopeful Questions U.S. Troops on Golan, Aid to PLO

Gov. Pete of California has voiced opposition to stationing U.S. troops on the Golan Heights and providing ongoing financial assistance to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Wilson, who plans to declare his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination this month, also told a group of Jewish leaders this week,”I don’t think it is a good idea for Israel to relinquish the Golan Heights, but it is a decision to be made by Israel.”

Wilson was responding to questions at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Wednesday, in the first appearance before the conference here of a 1996 presidential hopeful.

Later that evening, Wilson was honored at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual dinner here.

Recovering from throat surgery, Wilson fielded questions from the Conference of Presidents after Rosalie Zalis, his senior policy adviser, delivered an opening statement.

The first question came from Kenneth Bialkin, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents.

Bialkin asked whether Wilson — unlike other former presidential candidates who become president — would, if elected, keep his promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem “without regard on whether it might have some impact on the peace process.”

“Yes,” Wilson replied simply.

Wilson was also questioned about the Golan Heights and aid to the PLO, two issues currently creating controversy between American Jewish supporters and opponents of the Israeli government’s peace process.

Lester Pollack, outgoing chairman of the Conference of Presidents, asked Wilson about the possibility of the United States “providing monitoring personnel on the Golan Heights” in the event of a possible Syrian-Israeli peace accord.

Wilson responded, “I have a warm affection and profound respect for Yitzhak Rabin personally. I am not persuaded of the wisdom of Israel’s relinquishing the Golan.”

He further expressed what he called “a genuine concern about the proposal to station U.S. troops there.”

Wilson also questioned the analogy, proffered by Rabin and other Israeli officials, between a possible Golan deployment and the ongoing presence of American troops in the Sinai, which are involved in monitoring the Israeli- Egyptian peace accord.

Responding to a question about financial aid to the Palestinians, Wilson said such aid “has to be very strictly conditioned” on compliance with their accord with Israel.

He added that he does not believe that the Palestinians are in compliance.

This issue is heating up in Washington, as Congress considers how, and whether, to renew legislation that enables the United States to fulfill its financial pledges to the nascent Palestinian Authority.

The United States has pledged $500 million over five years, more than $100 million of which has already been transferred.

Israeli officials have indicated their preference for continued U.S. assistance to the PLO in order for the peace process to move forward.

Wilson, whose support for California Proposition 187 has sparked controversy from Jewish groups, was not questioned on the topic by the relatively small afternoon turnout.

But in her preliminary remarks, Zalis, Wilson’s aide, defended the measure, which bars state aid to illegal immigrants.

Calling it “misunderstood and mispublicized,” she said that Proposition 187 is not about legal immigration.

“The governor’s grandfather was an immigrant,” she said. “My mother came from Riga; my father came from Vilna.”

The measure “is about people who break the law” by entering the United States illegally, she said.

Many in the Jewish community, however, have seen the measure as responding to and fueling a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment that could affect Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union.

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