Friend of Israel comes to GOP presidential ticket…

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Jack Kemp brings something to the Republican ticket that has been sorely missing — a true friend of Israel with close ties to the Jewish community.

Most feel GOP nominee Bob Dole is Israel's fair-weather friend, but his new running mate has proven himself a consistent and reliable supporter. During his 18 years in the House of Representatives, Kemp was the leading conservative and Republican voice advocating foreign aid in general and support for Israel in particular. He did more than vote for aid; he persuaded other conservatives to do so as well.

Kemp, who represented the Buffalo, N.Y., suburbs in Congress from 1971 to 1989, was born and raised in Los Angeles' heavily Jewish Fairfax area.

As the senior Republican on the critical Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which had jurisdiction over military and economic assistance for Israel, he demonstrated his friendship over and over. His name was linked to many key pro-Israel initiatives in Congress during the 1980s.

As George Bush's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he proved a lonely friend of Israel. During one of the more infamous moments in the U.S.-Israel relationship, then-Secretary of State James Baker called Kemp onto the White House carpet for agreeing to meet his Israeli counterpart, Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, at HUD headquarters.

Controversial former general Sharon, who angered both Bush and Baker by pushing an aggressive settlements policy, seemed to announce a new settlement every time the secretary of state visited Israel.

Kemp has told friends that Baker ordered him to cancel the Sharon meeting. When Kemp protested that he had a good relationship with the Israeli government and the American Jewish community — assets he said would be valuable in 1992 when Bush ran for re-election — Baker is said to have replied, "F_ _ _ the Jews; they don't vote for us."

Baker has denied it, but sources close to Kemp insist the story is true. The Sharon meeting ultimately took place at the Israeli Embassy.

As legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during the 1980s, I worked closely with Kemp on foreign aid appropriations and many other initiatives. He was hard-working, effective, well-informed and bipartisan. His wife, Joanne, was head of the Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry.

Kemp was a prime sponsor of legislation to help Israel build the Lavie fighter jet, and he made a 24-hour flight to Tel Aviv just to be the keynote speaker at the plane's 1986 roll-out.

During the '80s, he developed a working relationship and friendship with the father of the Lavie, Moshe Arens, who was then the Israeli ambassador to Washington, and with Arens' deputy chief of mission, Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, now prime minister, was influenced by Kemp's economic views, which can be seen in the new Israeli leader's economic pronouncements.

The two met again when the prime minister was in Washington recently.

Economics are the crux of Kemp's agenda. He is a lifelong conservative known for his advocacy of supply-side economics and massive tax cuts, ideas scorned by deficit hawk Dole until just this month.

That is one of the topics on which the GOP presidential and vice presidential candidates disagree.

Known as a "bleeding-heart conservative," Kemp has advocated Republican outreach to the poor and minorities. He criticized Dole for his refusal to attend the NAACP convention this summer, and differs with the candidate on issues such as affirmative action and immigration policy. Kemp also disagrees with Dole's advocacy of term limits and a balanced-budget constitutional amendment. Both men are outspoken opponents of abortion.

Kemp firms up Dole's standing on the right. Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed warmly praised Kemp as "pro-life and pro-family." Kemp's congressional voting record was consistently rated around 90 percent by the American Conservative Union.

But at the same time, Kemp is well-regarded in the African American, Hispanic, Jewish and other minority communities where Dole is weak. He has advocated urban enterprise zones, minority outreach, more aid to inner cities and economic development for the poor.

The Dole-Kemp relationship has never been close or warm. This week they forged a marriage of convenience that may have been a desperation move for a candidate trailing the incumbent by more than 20 points. But it was a smart move because Kemp brings to an otherwise anemic campaign some sorely needed attributes: energy, charisma, imagination, compassion, personality and innovation.

Dole's aides were also touting another Kemp advantage: youth. True, he is a dozen years younger than the 73-year-old Dole, but at 61 he has more than a decade on Clinton, 50, and Gore, 48.

Clinton and Gore are widely considered to have the closest and friendliest relationship ever between a president and vice president. No one expects to see that if Dole and Kemp are elected. The two are old and acerbic rivals; this year Kemp waited until late in the primary season to make any endorsement and then went with Dole's rival, Steve Forbes.

But such pairings are not uncommon. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were effective running mates who did not like each other very much and were never close.

It remains to be seen how much influence Kemp will have on Dole. During the campaign Dole is taking a pro-Israel stance, as most candidates do, but the test will come when and if he gets to the White House.

In the previous Republican administration, Vice President Dan Quayle had a pro-Israel reputation but no influence when it was needed. In that same administration, Kemp tried to speak up for Israel but was ignored by the president and shot down by the secretary of state.

Dole probably could not have chosen a more pro-Israel running mate, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to swing a sizable number of Jewish votes to the Republican ticket. Working against Kemp are Dole's own record, Clinton's reputation as possibly the most pro-Israel president ever and the fact that most Jews tend to vote Democratic.

The contest might be closer, and Jewish voters would be a lot more comfortable, if the order on the ticket were reversed.

Douglas M. Bloomfield

Douglas M. Bloomfield is the president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying and consulting firm. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.