WASHINGTON (Apr. 7)
Vice President Dan Quayle’s attempt this week to make amends with the Jewish community over the tension between the United States and Israel may not have achieved the result the Bush administration had hoped for.
While Quayle was repeatedly cheered in a luncheon address Tuesday to nearly 2,000 pro-Israel activists, mention of President Bush’s name drew hisses and boos.
The loudest cheers for the vice president came when he greeted the delegates attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s 33rd annual policy conference as “fellow Zionists.”
“I am here as George Bush’s vice president to underscore his commitment to Israel,” Quayle told the policy conference, which was attended by some 3,000 people, including 1,000 college students.
“The bumps in the road trouble him and all of us deeply, but they do not change or threaten the basic principles behind our relationship,” he said.
Quayle then quoted Bush’s remarks in a letter last month to a leading Republican Jew, George Klein, in which he said, “Our fundamental commitment to Israel is just that — fundamental.”
The Bush letter, conciliatory comments made by Secretary of State James Baker last week on public television’s “MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour” and Quayle’s appearance before AIPAC were all seen as efforts by the administration to convince American Jews that it is not hostile to Israel.
Quayle stressed that the U.S.-Israel alliance is permanent and based on strategic interests and shared democratic values.
‘CLOSEST AND MOST RELIABLE ALLY’
Rejecting the view that this alliance has changed because of the breakup of the Communist bloc, Quayle maintained that “Cold War or no Cold War, Israel remains our closest and most reliable ally in the Middle East.
“And nothing will change our commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge against any likely combination of aggressors,” he said.
But most of the AIPAC delegates would not accept this. They had spent three days hearing denunciations of the administration for refusing to guarantee $10 billion in loans sought by Israel unless it halted settlement activity in the West Bank.
Their loudest applause at Wednesday’s luncheon was for Sen. Robert Kasten (R-Wis.), who had joined Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) in introducing legislation never voted upon that would have provided the guarantees without strings attached.
Quayle said “all the right things,” conceded Norman Arnold, a delegate from Columbia, S.C. But he said the vice president’s remarks did not jibe with the facts.
Evan Pickus, a student at the Cardozo Law School in New York, said he was not sure what effect Quayle had on U.S. foreign policy.
But Pickus said he had voted four years ago for Bush, in the belief that he would follow the Reagan administration’s pro-Israel policy, and now felt betrayed.
In fact, when mentioning the Bush administration, Quayle frequently linked it with its predecessor. “I hope you’ll agree: Ronald Reagan’s presidency and George Bush’s presidency have been good for Israel,” he said.
Quayle listed as accomplishments by Reagan and Bush the large-scale Soviet emigration, the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry, the repeal of the U.N. General Assembly resolution defining Zionism as racism, the start of direct peace talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and an end to the Iraqi military threat against Israel.
‘EVERY RIGHT’ TO LOBBY FOR ISRAEL
The vice president also was seen as trying to apologize for Bush’s attack last September, in which he pitted himself as “one lonely guy” against 1,000 lobbyists for the loan guarantees. The attack came as Jews from across the country were in Washington to press their senators and representatives to support the loan guarantees.
“As Americans, you have every right to voice your support for the State of Israel,” Quayle told his listeners, some of whom had been among the lobbyists the president referred to. “You have every right to remind your fellow Americans of the value of the American-Israeli relationship.”
But Renee Garfinkel of Silver Spring, Md., said she would like to see the apology made not just before a Jewish group but at a televised news conference, as were Bush’s remarks last September.
At the AIPAC policy conference banquet Monday night, Sens. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.) both denounced the administration for linking the loan guarantees to settlements. Both stressed that Jews in the former Soviet Union are in danger and must be gotten out as soon as possible.
Mack called the Bush administration position “immoral” and urged Israel not to “back down one iota” in its settlement policy.
Biden asked how any Israeli government could be asked to end its settlement policy in the midst of an election and while it was engaged in peace negotiations.
Participants at the AIPAC conference all seemed eager to continue pressing for approval of the loan guarantees.
“For our community, the issue of the loan guarantees is not over,” Thomas Dine, AIPAC’s executive director, told the gathering Sunday night. “We cannot and will not give up until we succeed in finding the resources to finance the rescue of 1 million Jews in the former Soviet republics.
“This is the only choice we can make because it is just, because it is humane, because it means saving lives, and it means fulfilling the promise of freedom for Ethiopian and Soviet Jewry. We will use the resources of our community and the tools of our democracy to achieve the goal,” he vowed.
“We are a united American Jewish community,” Shoshana Cardin, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jews, emphasized at Tuesday’s luncheon.