JERUSALEM (Apr. 20)
A group of eight top level American Jewish leaders told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee today that the Israel government’s latest interpretation of Security Council Resolution 242 and its persistent policy of establishing settlements in the occupied Arab territories was making it increasingly difficult to reverse the deterioration of Israel’s image in the United States.
They reportedly said essentially the same thing to Premier Menachem Begin at two meetings with him since their arrival in Israel Sunday for a five-day visit.
It was learned today that the group has an appointment at the White House Monday to discuss the current state of Israeli-American relations. It was not known with whom they will meet but it is assumed that the Carter Administration of the present mood in Israel, as they are presently informing Israeli leaders of the mood in the U.S. The group includes the leaders of four of the largest and most influential national Jewish organizations in the U.S.
They are: Howard Squadron, American Jewish Congress president; Naomi Levine, AJCongress executive director; Richard Maass, American Jewish Committee president; Bertram Gold, AJCommittee executive vice-president; Burton Joseph, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith chairman; Benjamin Epstein, ADL director; Theodore Mann, National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council chairman; and Albert Chernin, NJCRAC executive director.
They met with Begin for one hour on Tuesday and again today for two hours. They also had meetings with Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman and Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization.
DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN ISRAEL’S POSITIONS
They told the MKs that they had always assumed that the Likud government honored the interpretation given Resolution 242 by previous governments and that they were at a loss to explain the change to the American public. They were referring to Begin’s insistence that Resolution 242 did not apply to Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. Previous governments acknowledged that the resolution called for territorial compromise on all fronts.
The Jewish leaders stressed that it was impossible to explain Israel’s settlements policy in a positive light. They said that while they agreed that Jews had the right to settle anywhere in their ancestral home, the matter of timing had to be considered. They said there was no room for the continuation of settlement projects as long as peace negotiations continue. They warned that the settlement policy damaged the public campaign against the U.S. Administration’s proposed package sale of advanced warplanes to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The leaders told the MKs that they came to Israel to express the full solidarity of American Jewry but, at the same time, to convey American Jewry’s concern over Israel’s sagging image and its strained relations with Washington. They said Israel’s image in American public opinion now is of a country that sticks to a stubborn policy in contrast to the generosity and peaceful intentions displayed by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.
The visitors also said that the American Administration is strongly influenced by Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars. They noted that the Saudis are buying billions of dollars worth of American bonds, thus helping to cover the U.S. fiscal deficit.
STATEMENT BY THE DELEGATION
The delegation published today the following statement:
“We came to Israel with a profound belief that the historic special relationship of mutual support and confidence between Israel and the U.S. should be preserved and strengthened in the interest of both countries. In our discussions here we expressed our concern that the Israeli peace plan, which we regard as a creative response to issues that have been intractable for 30 years, has not received the attention of the American public that it deserves.
“Among other matters, we reported that the timing of new settlements and the controversy over Resolution 242 have diverted attention from the fundamental issues of peace and security. We urged that a new and higher priority be given to public information and to the inter-relationship between the formulation of policy and its public interpretation.
“We regard these talks as a significant step forward in the relationship between American Jewry and the leadership of Israel. Our views received the respectful attention of all those with whom we met. We are particularly grateful to the Premier for having given us so much of his time. This mission was a part of the continuing cooperative effort on behalf of Israel by the three major Jewish community relations agencies in the U.S. and their coordinating instrumentality.”