GOVERNOR BUSH SUPPORTS
STRONG TIES WITH ISRAEL

U.S.-ISRAEL TIES STAND APART FROM PROGRESS IN PEACE PROCESS, GOV. BUSH TELLS B'NAI B'RITH INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION

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Washington, D.C. (August 28, 2000) "My support for Israel is not conditioned upon progress in the [Arab-Israeli] peace process," Texas Governor George W. Bush told delegates to the B'nai B'rith International Convention 2000. The Republican presidential candidate reiterated his position that if he is elected the "special relation" between the United States and Israel "will continue even if Israel's neighbors cannot bring themselves to make peace."

In a 15-minute speech live via satellite, Bush asserted that "Israel wants peace . and like all Americans of goodwill, I want peace for Israel and the Middle East." But Washington should not impose specific policies on Jerusalem, the governor added. "America should not interfere in Israel's democratic process .and it won't when I take office."

Bush, who was interrupted by applause several times, also repeated his campaign pledge that, if elected he would "begin the process of moving the U.S. ambassador to the city Israel chooses as its capital." Only El Salvador and Costa Rica currently maintain embassies in Jerusalem. Most nations, including the United States, have their embassies in Tel Aviv, 35 miles from Jerusalem; the American ambassador's residence is in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

The Republican nominee warned that "rogue nations" in the Middle East were arming with weapons of mass destruction and noted that "Israel has taken the lead in missile defense." Bush, already pledged to intensify America's own ballistic missile defense efforts, said the United States should follow the Israeli example.

The governor praised B'nai B'rith for its long record of community action projects and humanitarian relief. "We share so much in common," he said, adding that a Bush administration would "rally the armies of compassion that exist across America" to inspire cooperation in ways that government programs, although necessary, cannot.

Referring to B'nai B'rith's emphasis on promoting inter-group tolerance, Bush said no American, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, should be excluded from the larger civic culture or made to feel unequal. "We don't believe in tolerance in spite of our faith," he stated, "but because of it."

On other issues, Bush:

* Vowed to "take down the toll booth on the road to the middle class," in particular by bringing "economic relief" especially to lower income groups;

* Convert Section 8 subsidized low income housing "to a home ownership program";

* Continue the movement toward educational reform, accountability and "better schools in every neighborhood"; and

* "Work to restore respect and civility to our national politics."

Approximately 450 delegates and guests, from several dozen countries, are attending the biennial convention. Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), is scheduled to address the gathering at the Grand Hyatt Hotel shortly after 9 a.m. tomorrow.

B'nai B'rith International -- with leadership and members in 58 countries -- is the world's largest Jewish human rights, community action, and humanitarian organization.

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