President Reagan, receiving the Simon Wiesenthal Humanitarian Award for his “steadfast efforts and historic contributions” toward peace, Sunday vowed unwavering support for Israel and cited the need “to use force when we are under threat.”
Reagan’s comments before an audience of 1,800 at the Century Plaza included a strong denunciation of the Holocaust and warm wishes for Wiesenthal, whose 80th birthday, on Dec. 31, was being celebrated.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center also presented a new award to First Lady Nancy Reagan, the Museum of Tolerance Award, in recognition of her “relentless opposition to the scourge of drugs” and for representing the United States “with dignity and grace.”
Wiesenthal told the Reagans their presence was “the most wonderful present you could have given me.”
In his remarks, Reagan said “those monsters” responsible for killing 6 million Jews during the World War II Holocaust created a tragedy “too awful to grasp.” But he declared that “out of the ashes of the Holocaust, there came a good thing, a great thing, called the state of Israel.”
Reagan--citing trade agreements and U.S. military support--credited his Administration with fostering U.S.-Israeli relations that are “warmer than they ever have been.”
Reagan said “strength and resolve” are “essential” to any settlement “among the war-weary peoples of the Middle East.”
And he said the same qualities are necessary in “resolving our quest for the freedom of those Soviet Jews who seek to make their lives in the West.”
In this country, the President came in for sustained criticism--which lingers still among some Jews--when on May 5, 1985, he visited a cemetery at Bitburg, West Germany, which contained the graves of Nazi soldiers.
But on Sunday night, the mood was harmonic, and the focus was on the historic closeness of the United States and Israel.
“America and Israel share an understanding forged in the blood and horror of the Second World War,” Reagan said, adding that “our traditions, our morality, our decency” must be defended.