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Mann: West Bank Consensus Among Jews for Security, Only

Theodore Mann, the immediate past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, contended today that there is a world Jewish consensus supporting Israel’s retaining the West Bank for security reasons but not for religious reasons. Speaking at the American Jewish Congress annual Israel-American Dialogue here, which this year is devoted to “Israel and America: The Right to Participate in Each Others Affairs,” Mann said:

“There is nothing immoral in Israel’s governing 1.2 million Arabs who don’t want to be governed by them. The real question is: does Israel remain in Samaria and Judaea because it must do so for its own safety or because it wants to expand its borders for religious reasons? The propriety of having to stay in the West Bank for security reasons is well within the worldwide Jewish consensus. The idea that Israel should stay there in order to make the borders of ‘Medinat Yisrael’ (State of Israel) coterminous with those of ‘Eretz Yisrael’ (Land of Israel) is far, far outside that consensus.”

Mann spoke out against the Gush Emunim and its influence on the government of Israel. He said, “It is a moral transgression of the first magnitude when those who are unwilling to consider the possibility that they have misread God’s message seek political power in order to impose their religious views on others.”

Mann contended that while the real obstacle to peace continued to be Arab refusal (apart from Egypt) to negotiate with Israel, it made “all the difference in the world” whether Israel’s motivations on the West Bank were security-or religion-based. “The differences are as important to American Jews as they are to Israelis,” he said, “and therefore American Jews have both the right and the obligation to speak out about them.”

But Israel’s chief autonomy negotiator, Interior Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party, counseled restraint by U.S. Jews in the exercise of this right. He warned that Israel’s enemies seize upon outspoken Jewish criticism to use against Israel. According to Burg, criticism should be expressed not in the public press but through “organizational channels that exist in the Jewish world.”

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