Jimmy Carter photo

New York, New York Remarks at a Meeting With Civic and Community Leaders.

October 13, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Rabbi Bokser—[shouts from audience]—Rabbi Bokser, Senator Jackson, Senator Moynihan—[shouts from audience]—

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Jimmy!

THE PRESIDENT. Fine. Thank you.

As I was saying, Rabbi Bokser, Senator Jackson—[shouts from audience]— Senator Moynihan, President Don Manes[shouts from audience]—

SPEAKER. It's never unanimous, Mr. President.


Would you like to hear what I've got to say?


THE PRESIDENT. Good. We don't expect you to be unanimous.

—members of the Forest Hills Jewish Community Center which marks this year your 50th year of service to the Borough of Queens and the people who look to you for leadership throughout this Nation:

I'm proud to have the support and the counsel of Senator Scoop Jackson. He is a tremendously effective fighter for a strong defense, for American energy security, for help to New York City and to other great cities, for the cause of Soviet Jewry, and for a strong and secure Israel. And I might say that I share with some of you the belief that Scoop Jackson would be or would have been a great President.

You might want to know that at the Democratic Convention in Miami in 1972 the person who nominated Senator Scoop Jackson for President of the United States was Governor Jimmy Carter.

I want to express my thanks, too, for the members of the New York congressional delegation who are here this morning, Ben Rosenthal, Congressman Addabbo, Congressman Ferraro, who's helping me all over the country, Congressman Biaggi, and Chairman Baranello, who's come here representing the Democrats of this entire State.

This is a session which I consider to be very important. It's crucial to our Nation; it's crucial for the leaders of the rest of the world to know where a President of the United States stands on current and major issues. I want the people of Forest Hills and of Queens to know exactly where I stand on these crucial issues. There has been misunderstanding, which is legitimate. There has also been misrepresentation, which is not legitimate.

For instance, I saw a political advertisement in one of the community papers. It was placed by an independent committee supporting my Republican opponent and completely misrepresented the policy-past, present, and future—of the United States of America and my administration toward the PLO. Let there be no doubt where I stand. The United States opposes and I oppose any PLO state.

The United States of America will never recognize nor negotiate with the PLO as long as it refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and refuses to accept U.N. Resolution 242. The United States does not deal with organizations which attempt to accomplish their objectives by means of terrorism. Terrorism is a crime against decency and humanity, whether it occurs on the streets of Paris or on the streets of Jerusalem, whether those responsible in Paris are neo-Nazis or in Jerusalem members of the PLO.

The recent acts of violence in Paris and other French cities remind us that after so many centuries, in so many countries, anti-Semitism has still not been eradicated. At the next summit meeting of the industrial democracies, among our major allies, we will discuss collectively what can be done to counter such terrorist acts wherever they might occur throughout the world.

The world must never forget the lessons of the Holocaust. That is exactly the reason which after all these years I established the Holocaust Commission to plan a memorial in our country, both to look at and to listen to as a constant memory for the victims of Nazi terror. That's also why after 40 years of Government inaction I set up a special unit in the Department of Justice to root out Nazi war criminals who may be in hiding in the United States. The Congress has appropriated $2.8 million especially for this task.

Senator Moynihan, Scoop Jackson, and I also share a deep concern about the freedom of Soviet Jews to emigrate. The year before I became President, Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union was about 14,000. Last year it was up to. 50,000, the highest level in more than 10 years. This year's lower rate in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is of great concern. We will not rest until every Soviet Jew is free to emigrate. This will be an important item on the agenda of the Madrid conference. The Soviets have an obligation to honor their Helsinki commitment.

Let's be absolutely frank with each other, without mincing words. I want to answer directly and personally a question that I know has been raised by some in our country who deeply care about Israel: "What about after the election? The record so far is very good," they say, "but isn't there a danger that President Carter might reverse United States policy and turn his back on Israel sometime in the future?" My answer is: Never.

I want each of you, even including the demonstrators, to go back to the people in your communities and neighborhoods and tell them this: The President will never turn his back on Israel. I never have and I never will. This President will never do as the previous administration has done, and I quote, "reassess America's relationship with Israel." This President never has and I never will. And this President will never use economic and military aid to Israel as a lever against Israel, not in the last 4 years, not now, and not in the next 4 years.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Jimmy!

THE PRESIDENT. You've got me. Thank you, you've got me.

My own belief is that even in a nation where freedom of speech is important, it's also important for interested citizens like you to be able to hear from the President of the United States the policy of our Government towards Israel.

These policies have been demonstrated during the last 4 years. These policies are firmly embedded in the consciousness and commitment of myself as a human being, of myself as a President, and in the consciousness of the people of America. And these policies will not change—and you can depend on that.

Scoop Jackson knows that. That's why he came here on his own volition all the way from Seattle, Washington, to be with us this morning. Immediately after this meeting, he has to fly back to his own home State of Washington. He knows and I know that the United States has a moral commitment to Israel, and also a strategic commitment to Israel.

General David Jones, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of our country, and Robert Komer, Under Secretary of Defense for Planning, recently went to Israel to improve our strategic relationship with Israel's defense planners and top leaders. I sent them there to continue laying the foundations for our mutual defense requirements for the next decade. As a strong democracy in a troubled part of the world, Israel is a major strategic asset. A strong secure Israel is not just in Israel's interest; it's in the interest of the United States and in the interest of the entire free world.

On Jerusalem, let me repeat the policy of the United States. We believe in an undivided Jerusalem. We believe in a Jerusalem with free access for all faiths to the holy places. We believe that the future of Jerusalem can only be decided through negotiations with the concurrence and with the agreement of Israel—[shouts from audience]—

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Jimmy!

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. That's fine.

I think it might be important for this group to hear the fact that the future of Israel and the future of Jerusalem can only be decided with the strong support of the United States for the principles and the ideals and commitments which we share and that any future of Jerusalem can only be decided through negotiations with the concurrence and the agreement of Israel.

As I told the International Ladies Garment Workers Union 2 weeks ago, we will oppose any effort to reject Israel's credentials at the United Nations General Assembly. If it did so, that would raise the gravest doubts about the future of the General Assembly itself and further participation of the United States and other nations in the deliberations of that body. If the matter should ever come to the Security Council, of course, we would veto it—[shouts from audience].

AUDIENCE [chanting]. We want Jimmy!

THE PRESIDENT. That's good. You've got me. Thank you very much.

At his cabinet meeting last week Prime Minister Begin praised the United States for protecting Israeli membership and legal status in such international forums as the General Assembly, UNESCO, General Convention at Belgrade, and the International Tourist Organization. And, as you know, we have worked hard to prevent the injection of PLO politics into the International Monetary Fund. Israel can count on that kind of backing from us now and always.

Obviously, our Government and the Government of Israel are not always going to agree on everything. We do not agree on everything with any of our friends and allies. But in the next 4 years our country is going to continue to support Israel and to work with Israel not just as a mediator but as a partner.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

We are going—this is very important-we are going to persevere in the Camp David process, which has already brought the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the first peace ever between Israel and one of her neighbors. This is a treaty between Israel and her most powerful Arab nation [neighbor]. 1 There are now open borders between the two countries. They have now exchanged ambassadors, as you well know, full diplomatic relationships, regular airline flights between the major cities of Egypt and the major cities of Israel. Tourists regularly visit each other in those neighboring countries, and negotiations are now continuing to perpetuate permanent peace and secure borders by Israel and between her and her neighbors.

Tomorrow, Sol Linowitz, the American Ambassador and negotiator, will resume negotiations with the top officials of Israel and Egypt to build a broader peace. These negotiations will commence in Washington.

The choice in this election is not a matter of personalities or intentions, it's a matter of consequences—the consequences for the future of policies our Government will follow for the next 4 years. The choice could not be more critical nor more clear.

On one side is a Republican candidate who said a few months ago, and I quote, "Urban aid programs are one of the biggest phonies that we have in this system." On the other side is a Democratic administration that has pushed through the first comprehensive national urban policy in our history.

On one side is a Republican candidate who wants to put an end to Federal aid for mass transit. That proposal would mean higher local taxes, more pollution, higher transit fares, and more dependence on foreign oil, for New York, to Los Angeles, from Portland to Atlanta. On the other side is a Democratic candidate who is committed to decreasing the burden on local taxpayers, to continuing full support for public transportation, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, and making our cities a better place in which to live.

AUDIENCE [chanting]. Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

On one side is a Republican candidate who prayed morning and night, according to his own words, that the Federal Government would never come to the aid of New York City. On the other side is a Democratic administration that worked with the people of this, the greatest city in the world, to see to it that New York was saved. And we still have a lot more to do together for this city and its people. Now, I'm not saying that the Lord does not listen to the prayers of people who pray against New York. [Laughter] I just think the people of New York outprayed him, and all of us outworked him.

On one side of the choice is a Republican candidate who last week proposed that we play the nuclear arms race card. On the other side there's a Democratic administration that is committed to mutual and balanced controls and future substantive reductions in the terrible weapons of nuclear annihilation.

On one side is a Republican candidate who, at a time of growing concern about the possibility that such nations as Iraq might develop nuclear weapons, says that nuclear proliferation is, and I quote him, "None of our business." On the other side is a Democratic administration that believes that halting the spread of nuclear weapons is the business not only of the United States Government but of every government and every human being.

On one side is the Republican candidate who summed up his energy program this way: "What needs to be done is for the Government to repeal the energy legislation and then turn the industry loose." On the other side is a Democratic administration that fought successfully for the windfall profits tax and for a massive new energy program that has already helped to reduce our oil imports by one-third compared to this time last year. Every drop of oil that we do not have to buy from OPEC increases our security and that of our friends, including Israel. We must not allow our progress on energy to be reversed, and we must not let this country become subservient to nor excessively dependent upon nor vulnerable to blackmail from those who might want to use oil as a weapon against us if we don't build up our energy security.

On one side is a Republican candidate who launched his political career as a spokesman for the anti-Medicare lobby, and who now says, and I quote, "I am firmly opposed to national health insurance." On the other side is a Democratic administration that's committed not only to a national health plan but also to the integrity of great programs of social betterment this country has adopted under Democratic Presidents ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On one side is a candidate whose party platform promises ideological loyalty tests for prospective judges, including members of the United States Supreme Court. On the other side is a Democratic administration pledged to the kind of independent, qualified judiciary the founders of our Nation envisioned.

On one side is a Republican candidate who has turned his back on 40 years of his own party's support for the equal rights amendment. On the other side is a Democratic President who has pledged to fight until the rights of women, like the rights of men, are inscribed in the Constitution of the United States of America.

On issue after issue—and I could go on—the choice is clear, and the stakes for our country are very high. This is a tough race. The polls say we may be behind. The Republicans are outspending us by tens of millions of dollars. Fritz Mondale and I are going to need the help of every person in this room and a lot more besides. New York City and the Borough of Queens are very important in this effort. Your influence can go throughout the United States. For the sake of this city, and for the sake of everything we've done together in the past, for the sake of everything we will do together in the future, let's let our message get across to every New Yorker and to every American.

Just one more comment and one serious reminder. We have just a short time to go, 3 weeks and 1 day. So, let's every one of us buckle down together and get to work for the future of our own Nation, for the future of Israel, for the peace of our country, for the peace and security of Israel, for the stability of the entire world, for the control of the spread of nuclear weapons, and for a bright future of peace and brotherhood and sisterhood together.

Let's win a victory for the whole Democratic ticket in New York. And most important of all, for the beliefs and convictions and ideals we all share, on November 4 let's have a tremendous victory for the entire Democratic ticket in New York and around the country.

Thank you.

1 White House correction.

Note: The President spoke at 10:45 a.m. in the Forest Hills Jewish Community Center ballroom.

Jimmy Carter, New York, New York Remarks at a Meeting With Civic and Community Leaders. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251014

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