CHICAGO (Oct. 5)
American Jewry was urged by leaders of the Zionist Organization of America “to speak candidly and forthrightly as Americans to our Administration” against what they termed “imposed solutions” in Arab-Israel peace negotiations.
Rabbi Joseph P. Sternstein, ZOA president, delivering the keynote address at the organization’s 78th annual national convention here this weekend, charged that the recently concluded Israeli-Egyptian Sinai accord arranged through Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, was “just such an imposed solution” and represented “a significant departure from the stated policies of the last three administrations, including the Ford Administration.”
Sternstein warned that there were indications that the U.S. was about to repeat its pressure tactics on Israel with regard to demands being made by Syria and Jordan. The next pressure point, he added, “will very likely be the Golan Heights.”
Sternstein emphasized that “the American Jewish community must assume the obligation to speak candidly and forthrightly as Americans to our Administration and to the world” if “in our judgement discriminatory pressure is imposed on Israel.” This in no way, he noted, “infringes upon the duty of American Jews to call the shots as we see them. To do less would be to perpetuate an historic disservice to Israel and world Jewry.”
MUST PRESERVE INDEPENDENT POLICY
Gen. Ariel Sharon, a leader of the Likud opposition in Israel who also serves as special military advisor to Premier Yitzhak Rabin, told the ZOA convention that “Israel’s independent policy must be preserved. It must be able to choose its way itself, with no pressure. It must be removed from the circle of extortion by imperialistic forces and its freedom of action must be preserved.”
Sharon urged American Jews not to “wait until tomorrow” to be told what they “should have done yesterday” if they want to be sure “that in the year 2000 Jerusalem will be the capital of independent Israel.” Israel must not be backed “into a corner” and forced “into desperate actions.” he declared.
RIGHT TO INTERVENE IN ISRAELI AFFAIRS
The question of American Jewry’s right to intervene in Israeli affairs was debated before the 1500 convention delegates by Philip M. Klutznick, chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress, and Jacques Torczyner, chairman of the ZOA’s administrative board. Both speakers agreed on the right of American Jews to speak out on Israeli affairs but differed as to the degree.
Klutznick, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, maintained that American Jews were “in some instances” obliged to intervene in Israel but “in others we must recognize that the real responsibility rests with the Israelis and their government.” He said American-Jewish intervention was appropriate in the allocation of their philanthropic dollars “to be used in Israel for social welfare, educational and related purposes.” He said that “In the discharge of this duty we do and should consult with the appropriate Israeli agencies and people.”
JEWISH CREATIVITY REQUIRES DISSENT
Klutznick stated that “no one but the government of Israel and its people can determine its foreign affairs posture in the ultimate sense,” asserting that while “it would probably make for a happier Jewish peoplehood if they did consult the diaspora where they could do so without breaching security or secrecy requirements, they have no obligation to consult.”
Klutznick said that those American Jews opposed to both the Israel government and “Jewish establishment spokesmen,” had an obligation to intervene with the U.S. government. He stated in this connection that the American Jew “has an obligation not alone to Israel but to his community and his country, the United States,” adding that “such interventions call for respect for those with whom one differs.”
Israel, he added, “must understand, appreciate and respect dissenters who seek Israel’s survival and development,” he declared. “To read dissent out of Jewish life is to destroy its capacity for creativity and growth.”
Torczyner, a past president of the ZOA, took the view that American and other diaspora Jews “cannot accept unconditionally every decision of the Israeli government” and “have a right to express our opinion about events and policies in Israel” because the Jewish State “belongs to all Jews.” Torczyner was critical of the leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations–of which the ZOA is a constituent–for allegedly muting dissent and simply echoing “the desiderata of the government of Israel without any choice of free discussion among its members.”