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Jewish Leaders Meet Carter; Say He Was ‘relatively Straightforward’ on Issue of Concern to Them

September 9, 1980
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The heads of American Jewish national organizations, following an hour-long meeting with President Carter at the White House today, took a carefully worded non-committal position with respect to their views of his candidacy for reelection while crediting him with being relatively straight-forward” on issues of concern to them.

Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who served as its spokesman at a news conference after the White House meeting, was asked if Carter was “reassuring to the American Jewish community” and how Jews would vote. “I think to some extent they were on many issues,” Squadron responded about reassurances. “I think that on some issues probably, people left the room still concerned.”

As to how Jews would vote, Squadron said, ‘I have no idea how Jewish voters will vote. Jews never vote monolithically for one candidate or another.” Pointing out that “there are a lot of undecided” voters, he said. “I would expect that the campaign between now and election day will have a great deal to do with how Jewish voters and other voters vote. I would not at this point say to you that the Jewish community is voting either one way or another.”

In that connection, Squadron also said, “I think the President’s appeal to Jewish voters has been relatively straightforward,” noting the President’s remarks on U.S. aid to Israel and his reasons for the U.S. abstention in the crucial United Nations Security Council vote on Jerusalem last month.


Squadron said that the President vowed to veto any action at the UN that would seek to impose sanctions against Israel. The Security Council meets Nov. 15 to consider the results of its resolution condemning Israel’s Jerusalem law on which the U.S. abstained.

“The President reiterated that the U.S. will veto such sanctions,” Squadron said. “The President stated very clearly for the first time that in the event of an effort to challenge the credentials of Israel, the U.S. will absolutely resist it and prevent it,” Squadron said.


Squadron said that the Presidents Conference had asked for the meeting with Carter. “Traditionally, the Conference invites the candidates,” he said. He explained that this meeting was held at the White House” as a matter of convenience” for the President “at his request.”

He said the Conference will meet with Republican candidate Ronald Reagan at his temporary campaign home at Middleburg, Va., but he was uncertain if another session would be held with independent candidate John Anderson who spoke to the Conference during the primaries. The Reagan meeting will probably be held next Sunday.

Headed by Squadron and Conference executive director Yehuda Hellman, all 34 member agencies of the Presidents Conference and its six observer organizations were represented at today’s meeting with Carter. In addition, the World Jewish Congress was represented by Edgar Bronfman, its acting president Philip Klutznick left that post temporarily when he became U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Also present was Edward Sanders, former head of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who is an advisor to the President.

Heavy media coverage was given Squadron’s news conference on the White House arounds. Among the reporters was the Washington bureau chief of Tass, the Soviet news agency. Squadron told the reporters that the issue of the West Bank was not discussed at the meeting with Carter.


Before that meeting, the Jewish leaders breakfasted with Vice President Walter Mondale at his official residence and after seeing the President they conferred with U.S. special ambassador Sol Linowitz. Squadron denied that the “breakthrough” for resumption of the Israeli-Egyption-U.S. autonomy talks was created for election purposes. “I don’t think so,” he said in reply to a question.

He said Linowitz was “quite pessimistic” during the summer over the chances of resuming the talks. But on his visit last week to Egypt and Israel when he “discussed the substance — ‘tachlis’ which translated means brass tacks — he got cooperation” from Premier Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat, Squadron said.

Squadron replied, “You start with the wrong assumption” when he was asked by an Egyptian reporter if lack of Israeli cooperation had caused the breakdown in the talks. “President Sadat has conducted himself most skillfully and most brilliantly of all three but not even he is free of mistakes,” Squadron said with respect to Sadat’s suspension of the talks last May and in comparing him to Begin and Carter.


Squadron reported that, with respect to the Security Council resolution, Carter “felt abstention was an absolutely necessary action by the U.S. in order to keep open prospects for further peace negotiations.” He observed, however, “I think many people in the room feel that the U.S. should take a more vigorous stand with respect to politization and really what amounts to an attack on the peace process in the UN and that the proper muscular response would have been a veto.”

Squadron emphasized that it was pointed out to the President that the American Jewish community is united on Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem and that this sovereignty “should be recognized.”

Squadron also said that Carter “has not used” U.S. aid to Israel to “twist Israel’s arms toward concessions” and that the President declared he “kept the security and survival of Israel always in mind.” In that connection, Squadron added, Carter said “if I had vetoed the resolution in the UN it would have gotten me more political mileage but I don’t think that was the right thing to do from Israel’s point of view.”

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