New York (Dec. 20)
Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has sent a telegram to President Reagan requesting a meeting for his organization “to discuss the apparent deterioration in the relationship between our country and our country’s friend and ally, Israel.”
Squadron’s request followed the announcement Friday that the United States suspended its agreement on strategic cooperation with Israel because Israel had failed to consult with the U.S. before it annexed the Golan Heights. Other Jewish leaders also attacked the Administration’s move.
At a press conference here Friday, Squadron also criticized the U.S. vote in the United Nations Security Council the day before supporting a Syrian-drafted resolution declaring Israel’s action in annexing the Golan “null and void” and threatening to take “appropriate measures” if the decision was not reversed. “We are deeply disturbed that our country has joined the lynch mob at the UN in supporting the Soviet satellite Syria — a state that refuses to make peace (with Israel) — while punishing our friend and ally, Israel,” Squadron told reporters.
“It is even more distressing that the White House should add to Israel’s isolation by suspending the U.S.-Israel agreement on strategic cooperation. This agreement was not a ‘favor’ to Israel. It was entered into by our government in order to strengthen the defense of the Middle East against Soviet aggression. To suspend this agreement … will weaken our ability to deter and respond to the Soviets.” The reaction of the U.S., Squadron added, was excessive. “The double standard it implies is troubling,” Squadron stated.
SHORT-SIGHTED AND HARMFUL
Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith, termed the suspension of the agreement on cooperation “short-sighted,” a step that “can only weaken America’s — and the West’s — position in the Middle East.”
Maynard Wishner, president of the American Jewish Committee, said the suspension of the strategic cooperation agreement “is inappropriate and harmful to American interests.” Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, termed the U.S. move “an unfortunate overreaction” to Israel’s decision to annex the Golan. “By using the first available pretext to suspend the strategic consensus agreement, the Administration leaves itself open to a charge of bad faith.”
Ivan Novick, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said “the harsh and excessive” action by the Administration “provokes questions which are perplexing and require clarification. Will the Administration’s decision gain respect from the Arabs, or more disdain? Will it influence the Arab states to become moderate and move in the direction of the Camp David peace process? How will this decision serve basic American interests?”
Rabbi Sol Roth, president of the Rabbinica Council of America, said: “Because of internatal pressures, we believe our government overreacted without giving sufficient consideration to the issues involved.” Harold Jacobs, president of the National Council of Young Israel, said that the Reagan Administration’s “unwarranted unilaterial cancellation” of the strategic cooperation accord “proves that it never represented a sincere commitment on America’s part to Israel’s security.”
ISRAEL CRITICIZED FOR GOLAN ACTION
Meanwhile, two Jewish organizations condemned Israel’s annexation of the Golan. The Americans for Progressive Israel-Hashomer Hatzair, which reflects the views of Mapam, stated: “While stressing the importance of the Heights to the security of the State of Israel” the act of annexation, “far from increasing the security of the region, actually jeopardized possibilities for negotiated settlement of the status of the area.”
The New Jewish Agenda, which describes it self as “committed to Jewish peoplehood and to fostering a progressive voice within the organized Jewish community,” staged a rally last Thursday in front of the Israel Mission to the UN to protest the annexation of the Golan. Chanting, “We want a land of peace, not a piece of land,” a spokesperson for the group said that the annexation has “grave implications because it impairs the possibility of a negotiated settlement between Syria and Israel.”
GOLAN ACTION WAS A JUST STEP
However, Rabbi Joseph Sternstein, president of the American Zionist Federation, stated, in response to Israel’s action: “The application by the State of Israel of the force of her law to the Golan Heights was a necessary and just step. It was necessary for the welfare of the inhabitants of that area, including the Arab population which was living under the physical intimidation and threat of the Syrians, and will quickly stabilize the situation on the Golan Heights …
“Syria has sworn her absolute refusal to make peace with Israel even ‘if the PLO does so,’ in the words of her leader. Under these circumstances, the nations of the world should dare not impose a double standard upon Israel in terms of acts and conduct all of them practiced in their own experience, namely that in a defensive war; the defending and victorious nation has a right to remove a land threat from its immediate borders. This is all that Israel has done.”
EVRON: ACTION IS UNJUST
Ambassador Ephraim Evron of Israel expressed “regret and deep disappointment” at the U.S. vote against Israel in the Security Council and its decision to suspend the strategic cooperation accord. He termed the U.S. actions “unjust” and noted that it gives satisfaction to Syria. “It will only serve to exacerbate the situation and encourage the extremist forces in the Arab world, thus endangering the peace process,” Evron said.
He stated that the Security Council resolution and the Administration’s action “will not deter Israel from taking whatever action it considers necessary to ensure that the Golan Heights will never again serve as a base of Syrian aggression. “Evron noted that the Knesset law on the Golan “does not violate Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 nor the Camp David accords.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Yehuda Blum, speaking after the Security Council vote condemning Israel for annexing the Golan Heights, said the resolution was “tainted” and fundamentally flawed because it “ignores Syria’s persistent aggression against Israel since the very day it was established in 1948. It ignores every hostile act taken by Syria in
the last few years to subvert any movement toward a peaceful settlement” in the Middle East, Blum said.