The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations concluded its series of discussions with the three principal Presidential candidates late yesterday with an hour-long session with Republican nominee Ronald Reagan who again gave his reassurances of political, military and economic support for Israel.
According to key Conference members, Reagan reiterated his backing of Israeli sovereignty over “undivided Jerusalem” while volunteering once more that the idea of a Vatican like form for its holy places “open to all people” was “interesting.” He made a similar statement last June 13 in an address to the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) convention here. It was recalled that when Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State he also was reported interested in the idea.
NOT ENDORSING CANDIDATES
Howard Squadron, chairman of the Presidents Conference, said at a press conference after the session with Reagan at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel that the Conference is not making any endorsements of candidates. He had made the some statement after meeting with President Carter the white House last week.
The Presidents Conference, comprising 34 member agencies and six observer groups, does not make endorsements, Squadron said. He emphasized that American Jews vote as individuals; like other Americans. Asked if “the Jewish vote is up in the air and neither higher nor lower than before the meeting” with Reagan, Squadron replied, “That’s right.”
He added, “I am only repeating my own observation and my observation has not changed.” He said voters in the Jewish community could go one way or the other and that it is “not the function of the Conference to make endorsements.” He emphasized that the meetings with the candidates are concerned with matters affecting the Jewish community. Asked if the Conference would meet again with independent candidate John Anderson who addressed it in New York last spring, Squadron replied, “I don’t think so.” He expressed satisfaction with Anderson’s previous statements.
While all 40 affiliated groups were represented by one of their members at the meeting with President Carter, only 30 representatives assembled to examine Reagan’s views on numerous national and international issues. Asked why 10 fewer attended the meeting with Reagan than were at the meeting with Carter, Richard Cohen, a Conference spokesman, responded;. “I can only suppose going to the White House has more attraction than the Sheraton Carlton.”
With Reagan at the meeting were Eugene Rostow who was Undersecretary of State in the Johnson Administration; Ed Meese, Reagan’s campaign chief of staff; Richard Allen, his principal foreign affairs advisor and Max Fisher, honorary co-chairman of the Coalition for Reagan-Bush.
IMPRESSED WITH REAGAN’S KNOWLEDGE
Key Conference members said they were impressed with Reagan’s knowledge and fluency on Arab-Israeli matters. “He answered all questions well except one,” according to one member who asked not to be identified. “He didn’t know the anti-Arab boycott law and all he would say was that he is against boycotts,” the member said.
At the meeting yesterday, Reagan reiterated portions of the statement he made to the B’nai B’rith convention in Washington on Sept. 3 which was virtually all devoted to support of Israel and criticism of Carter Administration policies.
Squadron said Reagan “made reference” in the discussion of Jerusalem to the Vatican-like idea “as one way to look at East Jerusalem,” while pointing out that it was “a matter that had to be settled by negotiations.” Later, Squadron observed that “no Presidential candidate can say more than that East Jerusalem must be negotiated. West Jerusalem is Israeli. That’s what we’ve gotten from the candidates,” he said.
Asked if he was satisfied with Reagan’s view, Squadron said he wanted all of Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. “For myself, I can’t see the Vaticanization of East Jerusalem. The Governor (Reagan) did not throw it out as a firm policy but something to look at. My own view is that Jerusalem doesn’t lend itself to that,” Squadron said.
One Conference member quoted Reagan as saying: “If I were to make a major issue of Jerusalem it would complicate a settlement.” The some source said Reagan declared, “I believe Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is justified.”
The Daily News Bulletin of June 16 carried a dispatch from Washington which reported Reagan telling the AJPA convention that “I believe in the sovereignty of Israel. If Israel declares Jerusalem as its capital then I think the U.S. would recognize that. I recognize that the three great religions in the world all have holy places treasured by them in Jerusalem.” In that connection, Reagan suggested “on area could be made similar to the Vatican open to all people of the three religions.” He said he believed Israel would be magnanimous, the JTA dispatch reported.
Reagan reiterated at yesterday’s meeting that he thought Jordan is a “proper partner” in negotiations with Israel for a settlement. He also hailed Israel as a “strong ally” and said that U.S. officials “should stand up not only for Israel when it is unjustly attacked but for this country as well.”
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.