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Letter to Rabbi Israel Goldstein by Senator John F. Kennedy

August 10, 1960


Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, 270 West 89th Street, New York, New York.

DEAR RABBI GOLDSTEIN: Thank you very much for your recent letter and its kind reference to my address to the luncheon tendered me by the State policy committee of the Liberal Party. In this address I briefly commented on important questions involved in our country's domestic and foreign policies. Time did not permit a detailed exposition of my views on many aspects of these matters. I hope to have the opportunity during the course of the campaign to elaborate on important policy questions.

I am glad that your letter gives me the immediate opportunity to state in somewhat greater detail my views on American policy with regard to Israel and the Middle East.

The section on the Middle East of the platform just adopted at the national convention of the Democratic Party sets out a just and reasonable course for American - and indeed world - policy in this important area. The platform is one I am proud to advocate and will do all within my power to implement. The section on the Middle East reads:

In the Middle East we will work for guarantees to insure independence for all states. We will encourage direct Arab- Israel peace negotiations, the resettlement of Arab refugees, in lands where there is room and opportunity for them, an end to boycotts and blockades, and unrestricted use of the Suez Canal by all nations.

We urge continued economic assistance to Israel and the Arab peoples to help them raise their living standards. We pledge our best efforts for peace in the Middle East by seeking to prevent an arms race while guarding against the dangers of a military imbalance resulting from Soviet arms shipment.

Protection of the rights of American citizens to travel, to pursue lawful trade and to engage in other lawful activities abroad without distinction as to race or religion is a cardinal function of the national sovereignty. We will oppose any international agreement or treaty which by its terms or practices differentiates among citizens on grounds of race or religion.

While all phases of the platform on Middle East problems are important, it seems to me that the central, overriding problem in the Middle East is the problem of achieving peace in the area. The persistence of the Arab states in maintaining a "state of war" against Israel is clearly the root cause of the discriminations you cite. The starting point, therefore, for an effective, realistic American policy designed to preserve peace and extend the free way of life in the Middle East is to come to grips with this threshold obstacle. American diplomacy must be directed to ending the "state of war" in the Middle East, and this undertaking should have a very high priority in a Democratic administration.

The necessary first step, as I see it, is to bring about a conference of the contending states in which they undertake by mutual negotiation to resolve the outstanding problems that are crucial to each side. Such a meeting could be meaningful - and even decisive - if it stemmed from a desire to make peace and promote cooperation. I would hope to demonstrate to the nations of the Middle East our genuine desire to provide the conditions for a just and mutually beneficial modus vivendi and to see the Arab states renounce the state of war and begin peace negotiations with Israel based upon the principle of recognition of the integrity and independence of all the states concerned.

While this will be our firm objective, it is also important that a Democratic administration take immediate steps to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, or color practiced against Americans abroad.

In the course of the campaign I will be discussing with the American people my views of international problems and programs, and I expect that my speeches will contain amplification of the matters I have discussed above. I hope my views will enjoy your support and I shall look forward to hearing from you again.

With every good wish, I am,



John F. Kennedy, Letter to Rabbi Israel Goldstein by Senator John F. Kennedy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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