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Unity That Led to Gulf War’s Success is Needed for Peace, Says Gen. Powell

March 20, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The defeat of Saddam Hussein’s forces was as much a “watershed” in the Middle East as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s decision to seek peace with Israel, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared Tuesday.

“We must all meet the challenge of peace with the same clarity and unity of purpose with which we met Saddam’s aggression,” Gen. Colin Powell told the closing luncheon of the 32nd annual policy conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

He said Israel and the Arab states must seek a “common solution” that will result in “peace and security for all the nations and peoples of the Middle East.”

Powell’s appearance was the emotional high of the three-day conference, attended by more than 2,000 people, including 800 college students, twice the number at last year’s conference.

Conference participants greeted Powell with repeated ovations as they waved U.S. flags that had been provided at each seat. Many had tears in their eyes as they watched a 10-minute film, made by AIPAC’s office in Israel, showing the Iraqi missile attacks on Israel and the arrival of U.S. Patriot anti-missile batteries and their crews to safeguard Israel against the attacks.

Powell praised Israel’s restraint in not responding to the 39 Scud missiles launched against it, even though “Israel had every right to respond to these terrorist attacks.”

“Israel faced the same threat as the other members of the coalition,” and when it was attacked, “the United States stood by Israel,” he said.

“Let there never be any question about our commitment to Israel,” the general added.

He said that an Israel that is strong and secure is “an Israel that can participate in the peace process with confidence and security.”


But two U.S. senators, who addressed the conference’s annual banquet Monday night, said the Bush administration is going at peacemaking the wrong way and should be urging the Arab states, not Israel, to make the first move toward peace in the Middle East.

“This is not the time to call on Israel to trade land for peace,” Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said to an ovation from the nearly 2,800 delegates and guests attending the AIPAC banquet.

“This is the time when the Arabs should first demonstrate peaceful purposes and take concrete peacemaking steps,” he said.

President Bush has called on Israel to consider giving up land for peace as part of a two-track diplomatic approach, in which the Arab countries move toward recognizing Israel while Israel seeks a dialogue with the Palestinians.

Secretary of State James Baker said Sunday that both sides should move simultaneously, with neither having to go first.

But Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) stressed to the AIPAC dinner audience that the Arab states, especially Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, must end their state of belligerency with Israel.

Gramm also received an ovation when, observing that U.S. troops went to the Middle East to save those two countries, he said, “They owe us, and not the other way around.”

“I do not believe it is asking too much to ask them to lay the cornerstone for lasting peace in the Middle East by recognizing the State of Israel,” he said.

Rockefeller agreed, saying, “We did not send half a million American men and women to defend Saudi Arabia and to liberate Kuwait so those countries will continue to wage war against Israel.”

But Rockefeller also stressed that Bush and Baker “must be more than a deal-maker” in trying to bring about Middle East peace. “They must be a friend” to Israel.

Pointing out that the administration is “constantly reaching out” to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev despite his increasingly hard line, Rockefeller said, “Israel deserves no less than that.”

Powell observed Tuesday that while the United States plans to strengthen its strategic alliance with Israel, it was allied democratically and morally with the Jewish state even before the strategic alliance existed.

Before leaving the conference, Powell sought to clear up reports that he speaks Yiddish as a result of growing up in a Jewish neighborhood of the Bronx and even used that language to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

“I do not speak Yiddish,” Powell said. He then paused and added, “Well, maybe a bissel.”

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