Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Remarks to Members of the Young Men's Hebrew Association and Area Residents.
Mayor Green, Mayor Koch, Bill Badoff:
First of all, I would like to join in with all of you in welcoming to this city the mayor of the Big Apple. I think it's appropriate to say, Mr. Mayor, welcome to the new city of champions.
And also, I want to express my deep thanks to Ted Mann, not only for his warm introduction, but what he's meant to me in the last 4 years, expressing very clearly and sincerely and from the bottom of his heart the commitment to our own Nation's interests, our security interests, our interests in peace, stability in the world, humanitarian commitments which we share. The breadth of his understanding and the breadth of his commitments have been an inspiration to me as President.
Next Tuesday the American people will make a profound judgment. They will decide which candidate, which party, which philosophy will guide our great Nation, not only in the next 4 years but perhaps for the remaining years in this century. I cannot think of a more important choice. As I've said many times, it's not just a choice between two candidates or two parties, but between two futures, the future of your own lives, the lives of your family members, the lives of those you love, the life of those you love in other nations.
And I've come here this morning to ask you for your help between now and next Tuesday. You have a strong voice in your own community, and this group collectively and individually has a strong voice that can be heard in every community of this country. I'd like for your voice to spread the word that I give you this morning, on what is at stake for our country. I'd like for you to be side by side with me and with Fritz Mondale, your friend, as we lead the Democratic Party to victory on November 4th. I want you on my side because we believe, together, in those deepest values which epitomize the Democratic Party down through the years.
Three centuries ago a young English Quaker by the name of William Penn had a very prophetic notion. He believed that a people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs could live and could work together. He believed that a society might be founded on the basis of full freedom of conscience, where religious liberty would not only be protected but would be respected as well. His belief in tolerance was not some abstract formulation or some theoretical commitment. He had felt the weight of religious repression, he had seen the price of religious intolerance, and he was resolved to do something about it.
William Penn set a new standard to govern the New World. It's a standard and an ideal that we still respect. He said no men nor number of men on Earth has power or authority to rule over men's consciences in religious matters. It's my privilege to lead a party, a political party that has perfected this spirit of religious and cultural tolerance. The Democratic Party not only allows diversity; it embraces diversity.
We are not a rich man's party by any stretch of the imagination, but we are rich in our diversity, rich in representing the diversity which is America itself and the source of a great portion of our strength. The Democratic Party has always had room for East European Jews, for Italians, for Poles, for Irish, for blacks, even Baptists from the rural South. [Laughter]
William Penn set a new standard to govern a New World, and it's a standard and an ideal that we still respect. We have a party that has fought and has had to fight for civil rights for minorities. We had to fight for them and have to fight today for equal rights for women. And the disturbing thing about civil rights and equal rights for women is that we've had to fight for them. It has not been a shared commitment by both parties.
Ours is a party that champions human rights abroad and faces opposition to this policy on the domestic political battlefield this year. The Democratic Party has fought for social justice because so many of us know too well the sting of social injustice.
We're a compassionate party because we can identify personally with those Americans who need help. We are a party that champions progressive causes because we ourselves have benefited from our Nation's social progress. We've come a long way together as a party and as a country, and we're going to go even further, because we are honest with ourselves about how far we have come and also how far we still have to go.
Recently a 12-year-old boy stood up in a town meeting that I was holding in Pittston here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What he asked cuts to the very heart of intolerance, which has reared its head in this country just in recent weeks. His name was Avi Leiter, and here's what he said: "In view of the fact that you, Mr. President, are Baptist, do you agree with the head of the churches who said God should not listen to Jewish prayers? I'm a religious boy," he said, "and I pray three times a day for the welfare of the Americans and the Jewish people. Do you think that God does not listen to my prayers?"
I told Avi that I believed God listens to his prayers just as I believe he listens to mine. I told him about being at Camp David with Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat. I told him that the world held little hope for peace when we secluded ourselves there, because those two nations had been torn by four wars in just 25 years.
And I told him that on the first day of our meetings, there was little on which we could agree, but we did agree to pray together. And we asked the entire world to join us in our prayers—a Jew, Moslem, and a Christian—and the world prayed with us. I told Avi that after 13 days we came out of Camp David with a peace agreement, and I told him that in my opinion that was proof enough, at least for me, that God heard all our prayers.
I bring this story up this morning, not to arouse emotions, but because it illustrates how far we still have to go in ridding our Nation of religious intolerance. It also illustrates how important it is for all of us to stand up for what we believe and to exercise our beliefs in the most tangible possible terms, within the limits of our constitutional rights, on election day and in our influence as we approach choice that will be made, to let people know what we believe in a loud and clear, unequivocal manner.
Today I want to outline for you my own position on a number of critical issues. I will be blunt, brief, to the point. It's time for us to look at the facts at the so-called bottom line.
First, the energy challenge. Before I took office, as you well know, our Nation did not even have an energy program, except one that had been forged under the Republicans by the oil companies themselves, working with the Arab OPEC nations, their partners. Three years after the Arab oil embargo, we were still trying to ignore the challenge that presented itself to our country. Most Americans were led to believe that there was not even an energy crisis at all. Two Republican administrations did little to correct this dangerous delusion.
This year, for the first time in history, we have an energy policy and we've actually reduced our dependence on foreign oil by 25 percent, 2 million barrels a day less than we have to buy from overseas. Congress has passed a historic synthetic fuels program and a windfall profits tax to pay for it. We're drilling more oil and gas wells than any time in our history. We're producing more coal this year than any time in history.
The bottom line is that the United States is today far less vulnerable to oil blackmail. Some of you may remember the Arab boycott against American businesses who traded with Israel, which we eliminated by law when I became President. We are much better able now to support our friends and to protect American ideals and principles and independence of friends like Israel, to stand up for what we believe.
Recently I signed with Minister Modal, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, an agreement which Prime Minister Begin and I and President Sadat had all proposed jointly; that is, to .guarantee to Israel that if their supply of oil should be interrupted in the future or if they should be charged exorbitant prices for oil that would wreak an economic problem for them, then the United States would make up that oil supply. And that agreement extends for the next 14 years.
Look, on the other hand, at what the Republicans are offering: no conservation program at all. They even want to eliminate the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. They want to throw out all or part of the windfall profits tax. They want us to rely solely on the oil companies to meet the energy challenge. And I think it's incumbent on you and me to think for a moment on who might be the next Secretary of Energy and who might be the next Secretary of State. The Republican bottom line: vulnerability, impotence in defending our friends and our principles.
Just for a few moments I'd like to talk specifically about Israel and the Jewish people. As Ted Mann pointed out, the United States has given aid to Israel since 1977 more than all previous administrations combined. The year before I became President, Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union was down to 14,000. Last year it was up to 50,000, the highest level in a decade, because we've put it as a top priority of my administration. And I have never met with President Brezhnev or with Gromyko and neither have the Secretaries of State of our Nation ever met with any Soviet leader that this question of Soviet Jews and their right to emigrate was not at the top of our list of agenda items.
And despite the fact that the Soviets have invaded Afghanistan, been condemned by the world, and that interruption of emigration has occurred, it is still higher now than it was when I took office. But we will not rest until every Soviet Jew who wants to leave the Soviet Union can do so.
Israel has been at war with Egypt, as you know, four times since 1948. Egypt is the strongest, most powerful, most influential of all Arab nations. Under my administration, Israel is at peace with this most powerful Arab neighbor. Today there are commercial flights between the two countries. The borders are open. They are cooperating on joint regional concerns, full diplomatic relations, Ambassadors assigned to represent each country in the other. There's tourism today, and today an Israeli tourist can buy the Jerusalem Post in the Cairo newsstands.
Just this week, the President of Israel paid a state visit, an official state visit, to Egypt. It was the first such visit by an Israeli head of state to any Arab country in history.
Let's talk just a moment, in closing, about American policy toward Israel.
Fact: The United States stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel against all her enemies, not as a favor to Israel, but as a direct investment in better peace and more security for our own Nation. We face these enemies whether they be a PLO terrorist carrying a bomb or a smooth-voiced diplomat at the United Nations.
Let me be very clear on one point: If there is any move to expel Israel from the United Nations, the United States will veto that action in the Security Council. And also, should Israel be deprived of its credentials in the General Assembly, through whatever means or whatever trick or procedure, I see no way whatever that the United States could continue its own participation in that body.
Referring to the PLO, let me say that the United States will never recognize nor negotiate with the PLO as long as it refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and refuses to accept United Nations Resolution 242 as a basis for Mideast peace. The United States does not deal with organizations which try to accomplish their objectives by means of terrorism.
Terrorism is a crime against decency and humanity. We condemn it wherever it occurs, either on the streets of Pads or on the streets of Jerusalem, whether those responsible are neo-Nazis or members of the PLO.
And I think the most disturbing single incident that came up in the debate night before last was the fact, confirmed since the debate by the press, that the Republican candidate for President said that he thought it was none of the United States business if any other nation decides to develop nuclear weapons for themselves. Think for a moment what it would mean to our country, to Israel, or to other nations who might be subject to threats of terrorism, if some of Israel's neighbors or a country like Libya had an atomic bomb developed while the United States official policy was to look the other way.
The United States has a moral commitment to Israel because we share so many things in common. A strong, independent, democratic nation committed to peace in the Middle East is a major asset for our country, and we share these strategic understandings and consultations, looking toward the future. A strong Israel is not just in Israel's interest or the United States; it's in the interests of the entire free world.
Under my administration, as you well know, the United States has never used economic or military aid as a lever against Israel. We have never had a suspicion of a thought of doing this. We've not done it in the last 4 years. And we will never do it as long as there is a Democratic President in the Oval Office.
You remember in 1973 when Israel was in the throes of a war. The Republican administration announced quietly that we would reassess America's relationship with Israel. And in effect, there was a cutoff of arms and a freeze on relationships in an attempt to force Israel to succumb to the will of the Republican President. It's good for us to think on these things.
We are committed to the defense of Israel's security. We are also committed to defend its place in the world community. The United States will not permit Israel to be isolated. We are committed to the Camp David accords. We'll veto any change in the United Nations Resolution 242. We oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state. And we will go even further: Whenever the United Nations is misused with malicious, unfair, and one-sided anti-Israeli resolutions, we will oppose them and we will veto them in the United Nations Security Council.
Your President and your country believes in an undivided Jerusalem. We believe, with Prime Minister Begin and, I might also add, President Sadat, that the future of Jerusalem will be decided, among all nations, through negotiations, negotiations whose conclusion must be confirmed with the concurrence and the agreement of the Government of Israel.
You in this city need to remember one other point. You're concerned about Israel's neighbors, and so are we. It's good for our country to have friendly relationships with the moderate Arab countries. In 1978 Secretary Harold Brown assured the Congress that our country would not provide Saudi Arabia F-15 offensive equipment, equipment that would give them an offensive capability against Israel. That assurance stands today.
Let me say in closing that you live in a city dedicated to tolerance. You're a city that, because of that, has remembered the Holocaust. You've erected a monument to 6 million martyrs. I'm proud to say that under my administration, with the help of Ted Mann, Ed Koch, and others, the United States Government has set into motion the development of a similar national memorial. That's what the Holocaust Commission will do. It will design a suitable memorial to this historic crime, and we will study the constant memory of its victims.
But the greatest memorial that I'm committed to offer is an active one. It is our unflagging, constant, untiring support of the results of the world's abhorrence of the Holocaust, and that is the formation, the protection, and the perpetuation of a strong and free state of Israel.
I feel deeply that you and I share many beliefs and commitments, a permanent commitment to human rights, a commit. ment to progress, to humanitarian action, commitments to the deprived, to those who are persecuted, to those who are in the minority, to those who need a strong voice and don't have the numbers to exert their voice, to the protection of new. comers, haven for refugees, commitment to peace, a sacred conviction that an affront to just one person's belief is an affront to all humanity. And I pledge to you that as long as I am President of the United States, that commitment which you and I share will be kept.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 9:43 a.m. at the Young Men's Hebrew Association. He was introduced by Theodore Mann, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Jimmy Carter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Remarks to Members of the Young Men's Hebrew Association and Area Residents. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251829