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Jewish Journal

Why John Kerry?

by Ralph Nurnberger

September 16, 2004 | 8:00 pm

I have spent more than two decades working in Washington, D.C., to bolster the American-Israeli special relationship. I have worked with both Republicans and Democrats across the political spectrum.

After seriously considering the records of both President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, I can say without reservation that Kerry will be a better president for the United States and will enhance the American-Israeli relationship.

The Jewish community has myriad interests and cannot be characterized as "single-issue" voters. It is clear that on most foreign policy and domestic issues of chief concern to American Jews, both Sens. Kerry and John Edwards have provided strong leadership in the past and will do so when they are elected.

Kerry and Edwards have spoken out forcefully against all forms of anti-Semitism in this country and around the world. Recently, Kerry harshly criticized anti-Semitic statements by Saudi officials. He also pledged that, as president, he would support the creation of a State Department office dedicated to combating anti-Semitism.

Most American Jews also tend to agree with the Democratic nominees on such issues as reproductive choice, civil liberties, environmental protection, selection of judicial nominees, support for the public school system, commitment to science and crucial research -- including embryonic stem cell research -- and separation of religion and state.

While Jews are far from a monolithic voting bloc, support for Israel is the one issue that unites us and is critical when we consider candidates for public office.

I first met Kerry in 1984, when I was a lobbyist at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and he was a newly elected senator. Kerry immediately impressed me as a strong supporter of America's special relationship with Israel.

He was aware of the legacy of Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party in the birth, survival and rich development of Israel. Over the next 20 years of Kerry's public service, he distinguished himself as a leader in Congress in support of Israel.

In remarks to B'nai Brith, Kerry described his commitment to Israel as "absolutely unwavering." His actions bear out the truth of this statement. He has repeatedly stressed his "100 percent record of supporting Israel on every resolution, on every important vote, on every funding, on every effort."

Kerry traveled to Israel on numerous occasions -- not just in advance of a presidential election -- and has developed close relations with both public officials and private citizens.

The best sign of Kerry's dedication to Israeli security has been his support when it really counts. He has not been afraid to take on presidents when he felt Israel's well-being was at stake.

For example, he stood up to the first President Bush in 1990, when that administration attempted to restrict loan guarantees to Israel.

Kerry has opposed every effort to sell weapons to Israel's enemies, including Saudi Arabia.

Terrorism is the great scourge of the early 21st Century. Kerry warned of this threat long before Sept. 11. He has been a leader on promoting security for the people of this nation and for America's friends abroad.

In particular, he understands that terrorism is a threat the United States and Israel share in common. As a decorated war veteran, Kerry knows, better than most, the right of Israel to defend itself against threats against its citizens and the need to ensure its security. He supports Israel's right to build a security fence and to allow its Supreme Court, not the International Court of Justice, to address the issue of its location.

While advocating a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms that preserve and enhance Israeli security, he has ruled out Yasser Arafat as a credible negotiating partner. Kerry has also rejected "open-ended" Palestinian right of return as a "nonstarter" to any agreement.

Moreover, while endorsing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan from Gaza, Kerry stated that such a withdrawal must be done in a way to ensure that Gaza not remain a haven for terror attacks against Israel.

Kerry has been a leader in all efforts to enhance Israel's security. In the Senate, he co-sponsored the Syria Accountability Act to ensure that Syria not acquire or distribute additional weapons.

Achieving long-term security for Israel will require sustained engagement by the United States. Periodic dabbling is not enough.

Kerry will keep the United States focused on the peace process without forcing Israel to take steps that will compromise its security.

He indicated his intention to appoint a high-level official to focus on these matters, rather than let conditions drift for months on end with ever-increasing casualties.

He will also initiate a plan for energy independence from Mideast oil, including research, exploration and developing new technologies.

Finally, throughout the region, he will pursue policies designed to promote democracy, enhance education that teaches skills rather than hatred, stimulate economies and counter Islamic fundamentalism.

In short, Kerry's record as a leader in support of Israel is rock solid. He is right for the American Jewish community, right for Israel and, most important, right for America.



Ralph Nurnberger was a lobbyist at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (1981-89); he is currently a professor of international relations at Georgetown University and of counsel with Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds in Washington, D.C.

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