NEW YORK (Jan. 29)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in an open letter published today to the American Jewish community has urged it to “contribute” to the peace process in the Middle East and by implication support his demands for an Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement.
In a reply, Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said today that American Jews want peace but do not agree “that the only appropriate response to your (Sadat’s) initiative is an unqualified acceptance of Egypt’s full demands.”
Sadat’s letter, copyrighted by the Miami Herald which had asked him to speak directly to the Jewish community, was also carried in other newspapers, including the New York Daily News and the Washington Star. The Daily News also ran a copyrighted answer from Schindler.
In his letter, Sadat said, “I believe that the American Jewish community shares a historic responsibility for erecting a formidable edifice of peace.” He said he believes “all people of Jewish faith shoulder a special responsibility in reviving this spirit of accommodation and meaningful existence. They are most qualified to play a pivotal role in eliminating human suffering and misery. The sad experience they went through in the past in some parts of the world and the lessons of history render them more sensitive to the need for the eradication of all manifestations of injustice and mercy.”
STAND SHOULD BE RATIONAL
Sadat said “The Jewish community in the United States can contribute immensely to this process in a manner that would reinforce our belief in the oneness of the human cause…. We expect you to support what is right and to correct what is wrong. Your commitment should be to the rule of legitimacy and the sublime norms of humanism. You should not be counted upon to support the perpetuation of injustice or the suppression of legitimate aspirations.”
Sadat said that American Jews should not be taken for granted by anyone, but their “stand should be based on rational and objective grounds that could be understood and appreciated by all parties to a given dispute.”
The Egyptian President said he wants Israel to live side by side with Egypt, Syria and the Palestinians. He said he still believes in the need for establishing peace. “However, I must tell you in all earnestness and in the spirit that prompted me to undertake my mission that the behavior of the Israeli government in the past few weeks has been negative and disappointing,” Sadat declared. “In all objectivity, I feel that my visit to Jerusalem, with all that it symbolized has not been responded to in a forthcoming manner.”
REJECTS SADAT’S VIEW ON ISRAEL
In his reply which praised Sadat’s peace efforts, Schindler said he was “especially touched by your (Sadat’s) recognition of the special vocation of the Jewish people born as it was of our martyrdom: to end human suffering, to seek justice, not only for ourselves, but for all humankind…American Jews serve not themselves alone. They enlist in every cause which promises to heal the bruised and lift the fallen, wherever and whoever they may be.”
Schindler, however, said he cannot accept Sadat’s statement that Israel has not responded to him. “Indeed, it seems to me that Israel has made far-reaching territorial concessions–involving great national risks–in demonstrating its own commitment to peace,” he declared.
Schindler said that Sadat’s “impatience” leaves the impression he disdains “the negotiating process in its entirety, preferring a prior agreement or an imposed solution. Our experience living in a democracy has persuaded us that there can be no agreement without compromise, no settlement of disputes without mutual concessions.”
The Jewish leader said American Jews share the commitment to peace expressed in Sadat’s letter. “But we are troubled by the implication it contains that the only appropriate response to your initiative is an unqualified acceptance of Egypt’s full demands.”
Schindler stressed that “American Jews support Israel because the Jews are a people, one people…because Israel offers a home, a refuge, a place of dignity to every Jew…because a strong and free and democratic State of Israel is essential to the security of our country, America.”
Schindler, who met with Sadat at Aswan Jan. 10, said that “I look forward to your impending visit to our shores. Perhaps we can continue our dialogue then. Of this I am certain, that though we have not yet found a common way, we do share a common purpose…peace with justice…”
LETTER TERMED MISDIRECTED
In a statement issued today, Burton M. Joseph, chairman of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, said Sadat’s open letter was “misdirected” since Jews “are private citizens of the United States and like all Americans are concerned with world peace.” Joseph said the opening of direct talks between Egypt and Israel “has precluded a return to that era when private intermediaries were the only source of contact between the peoples of those nations.”
Joseph said the questions asked by Sadat of American Jews have been “satisfactorily answered by Israel.” He said Israel has demonstrated “flexibility” on the West Bank and has shown it is not interested in territory.