Participant at Meeting Between Carter and Jewish Leaders Says Session Left Many Gaps, Doubts

Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of Bnai Zion, said that the meeting held last week between President Carter and American Jewish leaders concerning Israel “still left many gaps and doubts and unanswered questions about American policy vis-a-vis Israel.”

In a report sent to the National Executive Board of Bnai Zion across the country concerning his visit to the White House, Berkowitz, who was among the more than 40 Jewish leaders at the hour-long meeting, praised the length of the meeting and the presence of top U.S. officials but added that “in essence this meeting with the President was a one-way discussion. Next time I would hope for a true dialogue with a greater interchange between the President and all the participants.”

Continuing, Berkowitz said. “This meeting which was called to clarify the Administration’s policy concerning Israel and to reassure the American Jewish community, proved to be inconclusive, unclear and fuzzy. Many statements bordered on the ambiguous and were open to differing interpretations while other statements as reported in the press and media created a misleading impression of what really took place.” Moreover, Berkowitz indicated that “one left the meeting with the impression that the Administration felt that peace possibilities were contingent upon a return by Israel to pre-67 borders. Although not stated, this was understood.”

SKEPTICISM AND QUESTION MARKS REMAIN

Referring to reports that there is a growing erosion of support for Carter in the American Jewish community, Berkowitz said that “I am still not totally sure that the President is fully aware of the continued erosion of support for him in the Jewish community on the part of the average Jewish voter. Many of them now seem to have one eye on his Mideast policy and the other eye on the polls of 1980. They are still worried and do not seem to have been reassured as a result of this meeting.”

Continuing, the Zionist leader added: “The President and his advisors may be of the impression that they have convinced the American Jewish leadership through this meeting concerning the wisdom of their policy in the Middle East. While some may have been convinced, many others are still skeptical and faced with question marks.

“Many, if not all, Americans admire the courage of President Carter in his forthright stand on human rights even at the risk of antagonizing the Soviet Union. Some of that courage and forth-rightness seemed to be lacking at this meeting. The time is long past for America to assume moral leadership and to state the case in the Middle East as it really is.”

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