NEW YORK (Apr. 24)
Thirty-seven American Jews, including leading personalities in the arts and sciences, sent a letter of support to the leaders of the Israeli peace group which held a rally earlier this month in Tel Aviv urging Premier Menachem Begin to demonstrate “greater flexibility” in dealing with the Arabs in Israel’s quest for peace.
The signers, who reiterated their commitment to work on Israel’s behalf, said “the continuing expansion of settlements during the negotiating process (with Egypt), the apparent revision of Israel’s interpretation of UN Resolution 242, the apparent insistence that indefinite occupation of the entire West Bank is a contribution rather than a threat to Israel’s security, make our task infinitely more difficult.”
Among the signers, according to The New York Times where the letter appeared last Friday, were: Dr. Kenneth Arrow, Nobel prize economist; novelist Saul Bellow; sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset; sociologist Daniel Bell; Prof. Leonard Fein, editor of “Moment”; Rabbi Robert Gordis, editor of “Judaism”; author lrving Howe; Jesse Lurie, editor of Hadassah Magazine; Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly; Allen Pollack, Jewish Agency Executive Board member; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, former president of the American Jewish Congress; Marie Syrkin, Labor Zionist leader; Albert Vorspan vice-president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; and lrving Levine of the American Jewish Committee.
The message was sent to Bezelel Reshef, a Jerusalem law student who led the group that held the peace rally in rally in Tel Aviv which drew an estimated 25,000 participants. The rally, which called on Begin to reconsider his views on retaining the West Bank, followed a letter to Begin in March by some 300 reserve officers who urged Israelis to say they preferred “peace to a Greater Israel.” Begin’s supporters staged a counter-rally last week in Tel Aviv in which some 40,000-50,000 people participated.
HEARTENED BY PEACE GROUP’S DEMANDS
The Times, which said the text of the letter by the 37 American Jews had been made available to it, quoted the letter as stating: “We are heartened by your call for greater flexibility in Israel’s negotiating position with Egypt. We share your view that a secure peace is more important than a Greater Israel. We applaud your initiative even as we continue to oppose those aspects of American policy which threaten to diminish Israel’s security.”
The signers said they were “life-long friends of Israel” and that “nothing can destroy that friendship or the efforts on Israel’s behalf that follow naturally from it. It is because of our commitment that we are disturbed by the Begin government’s response to President Sadat’s peace initiative.”
DISTRESSED BY U. S. MIDEAST POLICIES
The signers said they recognized “the skill with which President Sadat has successfully captured the American imagination: we lament the fact that the Israeli government has contributed to that success. We are distressed by the dangerous Middle East policies of the American government; we are troubled by the fact that the Israeli government has made it easier for the Carter Administration to win support for those policies.”
The signers indicated they had found it difficult to make a break with the tradition of American Jewish public support of Israel. Arrow declared he was disturbed by the possibility that the message could be misused, but he added that the message also emphasized the misgivings of the signers about the Carter Administration’s Mideast policies.
The message assailed “the apparent readiness of Western nations to abandon Israel” and said “we are disturbed by the fact that the Israeli government is providing those nations with ready-made excuses for their behavior.”
They said “that is why we greet the emergence of a grass-roots peace movement in Israel, committed as we are to safety as well as to peace, with delight and relief. Y’asher kochchem. May you go from strength to strength, our hopes are with you. For our part we shall continue to support Israel in its struggle for a secure peace in every way we can.”