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Vice President Pledges Solidarity with Netanyahu

In a pointed message to the Israeli prime minister this week, Vice President Al Gore pledged unswerving U.S. solidarity with Israel that “transcends party and personality” and expressed confidence that the new government would continue the pursuit of peace.

Gore made his remarks during the 40th anniversary celebration of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Tuesday.

Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and GOP vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp also addressed the dinner, which drew 1,400 guests, including hosts of dignitaries.

Gore took the opportunity to praise the prime minister for meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and to prod him to press ahead for peace.

It was clear that Gore was bent on demonstrating that, despite the heavy investment the administration had in the peace process orchestrated by Netanyahu’s predecessors, the United States is committed to honoring Israeli democracy and working with him.

“The balance Israel must strike in its aspirations for peace and its demands for security is a delicate balance,” Gore said, “and ultimately it is the Israeli people who must decide how best to keep that balance.”

“We are proud to walk by your side, Mr. Prime Minister, in our shared journey to peace and security,” said the vice president, whose speech was warm and familiar, filled with references to the “Hebrew” Bible, Jewish tradition and the High Holiday season. “Of course we have our differences, but friends have differences.”

He also acknowledged that “we did not have the same relationship with the Likud leadership” when it was in opposition and that Netanyahu “did not see things just as his predecessors did.”

But, he reminded the audience that the late Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin “seized peace” with Egypt as soon as he had “the opportunity to safely do so,” and said he was confident Israel would “seek peace with all its neighbors, cautiously, but energetically.”

Gore said President Clinton had moved boldly to respond to recent Iraqi aggression against the Kurds in the northern part of the country in part because “Iraq’s fondest wish would be to harm Israel.”

He said the United States acted to show Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that he could not “act with impunity.”

For his part, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to the “quest for a secure peace.”

In his remarks he talked of the approaching 50th anniversary of the State of Israel and the need to declare a worldwide “Jewish renaissance,” a “rededication and rebirth.”

Israel is “not just a state,” he said, but an entity intended to preserve the common destiny of the Jewish people.

In Kemp’s address, the vice presidential nominee attempted to answer recent criticism over an interview in which he praised the self-help philosophy of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Kemp said he stands by his long record against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry and called on Farrakhan to renounce anti-Semitism.

“Racial, religious and ethnic reconciliation is the highest moral cause of this nation on the eve of the 21 st century,” said Kemp, whose speech received a tepid response.

Mostly, however, he focused on foreign policy and the importance of preserving the alliance between Israel and the United States.

Praising Netanyahu’s economic privatization efforts, Kemp said he and presidential candidate Bob Dole would move the U.S. economy in the same direction of “greater growth and freedom.”

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