New York (Dec. 22)
Prominent Jewish leaders today applauded Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s sharp statement Sunday in which he excoriated the Reagan Administration for its suspension of the recently signed memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
In a telegram to Begin, Howard Squadron, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, after reading the Premier’s statement: “Yasher Koach (all strength to you). I was particularly pleased by your remarks about the American Jewish community.” This was a reference to Begin’s statement that “No one will frighten the great and free Jewish community of the U.S. No one will succeed in cowing them with anti-Semitic propaganda. They will stand by our side ….”
In a statement to the press, Squadron said that Begin’s “reaction to the American action in joining the lynch mob at the UN (Security Council last Thursday where the U.S. representative voted in favor of a resolution demanding that Israel rescind its Golan Heights law), and to the unjustified suspension of the strategic cooperation agreement was perfectly understandable. No self-respecting leader of any independent country in the world would react differently.”
Squadron added: “No thing Israel did merited the sanctions our government imposed. The punishment did not fit the crime, if indeed there was a crime.” He noted that there is on important lesson to be learned “by our government in this exchange. Demonstrations of American moral outrage should be reserved for our enemies, not our friends.”
ISRAEL’S RESPONSE ‘FULLY JUSTIFIED’
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said that Israel’s response to the suspension of the cooperation accord “was fully justified. It was wrong of our government to impose sanctions against our friend and ally, Israel, that can only give aid and comfort to Syria and its master, the Soviet Union. “He noted that the U.S. has a “double standard in the Middle East.”
The U.S. “turns a third eye to the Syrian aggression and a deaf ear to the cries of the Lebanese people” but “over-reacts” when Israel “acts to prevent future aggression by enacting a law that will prevent Syria from using the Golan Heights again to shell Israeli settlements below.” The Reform rabbi expressed confidence, however, “that the common values and common purposes that link the two countries will transcend the momentary difficulty between them.”
Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said he agreed with Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s statement in a television interview Sunday that despite heightened tempers, the basic strategic interests of the U.S. and Israel remain close.
“What is needed now is a muting of confrontational rhetoric on both sides, and a reassertion of the fundamental relationship and mutuality that characterize the special relationship between these two countries,” Siegman said.
Roselle Silberstein, president of the American Mizrachi Women, called the suspension of the strategic cooperation agreement “another manifestation of America’s distorted image of Israel. She called upon the Administration and the American people to stop judging Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, by American ‘easy chair standards’.”
Maxwell Greenberg, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said that instead of suspending the cooperation accord “we should be directing our attention to continued Syrian rejectionism and Israeli fears about Syrian missiles and troops in Lebanon …. Let us remember who is blocking Middle East peace and who is taking the major risks for the Middle East peace.”