NEW YORK (Nov. 24)
American Jewish leaders are virtually unanimous that the meetings between President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Premier Menachem Begin of Israel, and the addresses by both leaders to the Knesset, marked a qualitatively new development for peace in the Middle East. Both leaders were lauded for their courage and imagination in seizing hold of an historic opportunity to hold a public dialogue.
Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the American Section of the World Zionist Organization Executive, said that the dramatic development “demonstrated that the Jewish State can receive with dignity and warmth the leader of an Arab state which is actually still in a state of war with them. It also dramatizes the fact that in Israel and among Jewish people everywhere there is no difference of opinion as to the imperative of peace.”
Raymond Epstein, chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of the Jewish United Fund of Chicago, said that Sadat and Begin “have taken the first step along the hard road that we hope may lead to a new era of peace for the entire region.” Applauding “the courage and imagination” of the two leaders, Epstein said that “it is only from such face-to-face exchanges that mutually agreed, durable agreements can emerge.”
INTERMEDIARIES NOW SUPERFLUOUS
Faye Schenk, president of the American Zionist Federation, said “No one can deny that the barrier of suspicion and doubt which encompassed all previous negotiations has now been pierced. We have entered a new era of Middle East diplomacy–an era in which intermediaries are superfluous, in which Arab and Jew can face each other openly, honestly and directly to discuss their differences.”
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, said Begin and Sadat “had demonstrated a profound concern for and commitment to the overriding need for peace.” He cautioned, however, that 30 years of hostility and conflict cannot be overcome and resolved in 44 hours. What is important, he added, “is that the first and most difficult step toward a just and lasting peace has been taken.”
David M. Blumberg, president of B’nai B’rith, noted that while the Begin-Sadat meeting “cannot in itself resolve the long dispute” between the two nations, “it can be the start of a transformation in the hearts and minds of Arab and Jew which eventually may bring the Middle East into the bright uplands of peace.”
Dr. Judah J. Shapiro, president of the National Committee for Labor Israel and president of the Labor Zionist Alliance, told the 600 delegates attending the Committee’s inaugural convocation in New York that Sadat’s visit “has broken the tradition of pan-Arabism.” It was also “a signal to American investors that there are good prospects for peace in the Middle East and it is safe to invest in Egypt, to rebuild the ravaged economy,” Shapiro said.
NEW ERA OF BROTHERHOOD
In telegrams to Sadat and Begin, Rabbi Saul I. Teplitz, president of the Synagogue Council of America, and Rabbi Henry Seigman, executive vice-president, praised the two leaders for their bold and courageous efforts “to transform the bitter history of the Middle East into a new era of brotherhood and lasting peace.”
Rabbi Joseph P. Sternstein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, praised Begin and Sadat for their initiatives but urged “caution in view of the points made by President Sadat calling for Israel’s full retreat, including East Jerusalem.” He added that the role of the big powers “should be curtailed and the process of direct negotiations which has begun should be allowed to take its course.”
Esther R. Landa, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, expressed “hope the Arab world will join with President Sadat and Premier Begin in their efforts to bring about a harmonious existence between the countries of the Middle East.” Prof. Seymour Martin Lipset, president of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, said Egypt and Israel “have taken the first giant step for peace. The prospects for a settlement of the Middle East dispute are greater than at any time since 1948.”
Harry S. Taubenfeld, chairman of the United Zionists-Revisionists’ executive board, termed Sadat’s visit “a bold, brave, precedent-shattering event. The achievement of lasting importance is the fact that the visit occurred.”
Abdel Halim Mahmoud, supreme head of the 1000-year-old Al Azhar University in Cairo, the world’s leading Islamic seminary, called on “all peoples” to support Sadat’s quest for “honorable peace.” Addressing a news conference at the Islamic Center in Washington, he stated that “it is incumbent upon all those who love peace to give their unqualified support morally and otherwise” to Sadat’s mission. Halim Mahmoud will be visiting Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New York and Washington before returning to Cairo Dec. 4.