H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who is considering running as a third-party candidate for president, is an unknown quantity when it comes to Israel.
Some Dallas Jews say they believe Perot is a strong supporter of Israel, although there is little evidence from his speeches. When asked about the loan guarantee issue on a television show recently, he said he had not studied the issue.
For several years, Perot has been a friend and benefactor of Shaarei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem and is known to be an admirer of Ariel Sharon, Israel’s hard-line minister of housing.
Perot has visited Israel, and “I know that he admires Sharon,” said Morris Talansky, executive vice chairman of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Hospital. “He admires the Jewish people, and he certainly admires Israel and is a very warm friend of the hospital.”
Dallas Jews point to Perot’s close relationship with a Jew, his longtime right-hand man Mort Myerson. When Dallas built a new cultural hall, Perot contributed the largest single gift for the center on condition it be named for Myerson.
During a recent appearance on public television’s “MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour,” Perot said the United States cannot afford hatred and bigotry as it seeks to restore its economic leadership.
There is “only so much energy in this country, and if we waste it hating one another, we are going to lose,” he said.
WAS AGAINST THE GULF WAR
He said there are three categories in which he would put most people on this issue. “We ought to love one another — that takes care of most of us,” Perot said.
“For those who can’t quite reach that, let’s get along with one another, so we can team up and win,” he said.
“Now for the hard-core haters,” he continued, “my advice to you is we are stuck with one another. Nobody is leaving. Nobody is going back home. We are all here. So get at least up in category 2.”
Perot’s possible candidacy came about during an appearance on Cable News Network’s “Larry King Show,” when he said he would consider running if he received the 800,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot in all 50 states.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been calling his headquarters in Dallas to offer support. He said he would be willing to spend $100 million of his own funds to finance the race.
Perot’s political outlook is difficult to assess. He said he wants to ban deficit spending by the government, overhaul the tax system, and make Europe and Japan pay for their defense. But he is less clear on other issues.
Perot has used his own people and funds to rescue two of his employees held in Iran and to search for U.S. soldiers missing in Southeast Asia. He was against the Persian Gulf War, but helped veterans of the war, as he has after other wars.
Pundits are divided over whether he would take away more votes from President Bush or the Democratic nominee. But being a folk hero in Texas, Perot could win that important state, which would hurt the prospects of one of the state’s other prominent native sons, George Bush.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.