Staff Correspondent, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Negotiations between the Vaad Leumi, the National Council of Palestine Jewry, and the Central Committee of the Agudath Israel, are now taking place. Representatives of the Palestine government are deeply interested in these negotiations, whose purpose is to establish peace in the ranks of Palestinian Jewry and to widen the basis on which the National Council of Palestinian Jewry is built.
As a matter of fact, the Council does not represent the whole Jewish population of Palestine. Only part of Palestine Jewry is organized in and subject to the Knesseth Israel. The Knesseth Israel is a freely organized body to which one may or may not belong.
The Farmers’ Association, for instance, or the Agudath Israel, do not belong to the Knesseth Israel. The first for political reasons, the latter for political and religious reasons. Since there is no law forcing anybody to be a member of the Knesseth Israel and to fulfil his obligation toward the organized Jewry of Palestine, certain groups feel more obligations outside of this representative body.
GUARDS RELIGIOUS INTERESTS
The motives which inspired the Agudath Israel not to participate are clear: the Agudah doesn’t want to be subject to a secular representation. The Agudah is afraid that its religious interests will suffer by a compulsory association. No reasons whatsoever and no promises given by the Vaad Leumi to the Agudah were able to persuade it that the religious rights of Orthodox Jewry would be respected and protected. The guarantees required by the Agudah were too much for the Vaad Leumi. So the Agudah was left outside.
But it is most inconvenient for Orthodox Jewry to establish a separate kehillah in order to continue a separate political and social line of action. The lack of prestige, the lack of means, the lack of power dictates sometimes steps which a strong and rich body would not take. The Agudath Israel feels now that to have influence on the political and economic life of the Palestine Jewry it has to be organized in a bigger association and inside of this association to exercise the required influence. Organization, however, means discipline, means fulfilling of certain obligations towards the body in which it is included. Is the Agudah now ready to accept the conditions of the Vaad Leumi? In spite of all, it seems that this is to be answered in the negative.
The Vaad Leumi. on the other side, feels that in order to have the right to represent the Jewry of Palestine and to exercise real power, in order to be able to speak on behalf of Jewry with the full conscience that it is truly representative, has to agree to certain compromises and to give the newcomers the same right as the others have. Is the Vaad Leumi, now, ready to make concessions to me Agudah? In spite of all, it would appear that this too is to be answered.
But the most important “pushing power” is the Palestine government itself. Strange as it may be, the Palestine government is the most interested party ni this triangle. The government has twice been asked during the sessoins of the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations about the reasons for two separate kehilloth in Palestine. The government was able to give a satisfactory answer an was advised to establish peace in the ranks of Palestinian Jewry, and also to establish one united representative body.
FIND AGREEMENT HARD
The government promised the Mandates Commission to carry out this “peace-mission,” but has not yet succeeded. Previously, the Agudath Israel went too far in its requirements and the Vaad Leumi was too conservative in its concessions.
The conditions posed by the Agudah were that a separate religious court, with power to judge in all religious questions, and also members belonging to the Agudah, be established; that a special budget be granted to the Agudah in order to carry out its work and that this budget be not discussable in the Vaad Leumi. All this would mean that the Agudah intends to get, on a forml basis and uder legal veil, an altogether separate kehillah.
It is obvious that the Vaad Leumi, in order to maintin its prestige, and in order to have full control, could not agree to these conditions. Therefore previous negotiations, even under the governments’ supervision, did not succeed.
PROSPECTS OF SUCCESS DIM
Are there any prospects for more successful results this year? It seems not. It seems that the prospects for a satisfactory agreement are even less this year than before.
Prevailing opinion in leading circles of the Vaad Leumi is, that under the present circumstances, in view of the exaggerated demands of the Agudath Israel, no concessions whatsoever will be given it. On the other side, we gather that the Agudath Israel is firm in its demands and will not make any concessions to the Vaad Leumiâ€”especially now, when the Agudah has started its own Agency, with a separate political and economic program.