U.S. Jewish Leaders Mark Israel’s Final Withdrawal from the Sinai

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called on the Reagan Administration “to adopt a Middle East policy that rewards only those states willing to live in peace with Israel.”

The statement by the Presidents Conference, signed by its chairman, Howard Squadron, and Yehuda Hellman, its executive director, was one of many by American Jewish organizations and leaders marking the completion of Israel’s final withdrawal from Sinai yesterday.

The Presidents Conference hailed the move as “an heroic act of faith” and noted the immense sacrifices of strategic security, natural resources and financial investment that it entailed. “We salute the leaders of Israel for their commitment to the peace process. We honor the courage of the people of Israel for placing at risk their own lives and the lives of their children in the search for peace,” the statement said.

“We call on our government, as a full partner in the peace process, to insure that Israel’s sacrifices for peace will not be in vain and to adopt a Middle East policy that rewards only those states willing to live in peace with Israel.”

SACRIFICES SHOULD BE EVIDENT

Rabbi Joseph Stemstein, president of the American Zionist Federation, said in a statement on the withdrawal: “That true and tangible sacrifices were made by Israel in her quest for peace should be readily evident to all people of good will. The Sinai peninsula was occupied at the cost of much bloodshed, and Israel paid a bitter price of young lives in obtaining the security of her defense in Sinai…Now, we watch apprehensively to see whether the world at large and in particular our own government will fully appreciate what has happened.”

Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith International, hailed Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai as “more than a triumph of the Camp David process, but a triumph of hope over history.” He noted that despite uncertainty and fear, Israel “has agreed to return to the vulnerability of 15 years ago in the hope that when President Hosni Mubarak (of Egypt) and before him, President Anwar Sadat, said ‘no more war’, they meant it for their Egypt no less than the Egypt of the future.”

Maynard Wishner, president of the American Jewish Committee, said Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai demonstrates “the power of the much maligned” Camp David accords toward developing a comprehensive peace in the Mideast. He added:

“Now is high time to recognize what a valuable tool the accords can be for bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians if only the latter choose to use them. Had they decided to do so from the outset rather than follow the PLO chimera of the eventual destruction of Israel, the Palestinians would already be well into the Camp David transition period. They already would be negotiating the final status of their own self government in the West Bank and Gaza.”

In a resolution adopted by the American Jewish Congress at its biennial convention, Premier Menachem Begin of Israel and the people of Israel were hailed for completing “one of the most magnanimous political acts in modem history, a courageous, unequalled contribution to peace.” Squadron, AJ Congress president, said, in introducing the resolution: “We hope this peace will endure and flourish and that other Arab countries will follow Egypt’s example.”

AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHER NATIONS

The Rabbinical Assembly, representing 1,200 Conservative rabbis in the U.S., Canada and overseas, opened a four-day meeting at Kiamesha Lake, N.Y. with a prayer that Israel’s “sacrifice for peace” will not be in vain. Rabbi Seymour Cohen, the outgoing president of the rabbinical organization, expressed hope that Israel’s action would encourage the nations of the world to fulfill their responsibility to continue the Camp David process and that the U.S. in particular continues to serve as an instrument for peace throughout the world.

Ivan Novick, president of the Zionist Organization of America, declared: “As the Jewish nation bids Shalom to a Sinai that they have nurtured and scrupulously cared for, let the world give the full credit to honest negotiations made possible by the courageous leadership of Israel and supported by a people true to the Zionist ideal that seeks to live with their neighbors in a peaceful world.”

Rabbi Joseph Tabachnik, president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, said: “The entire world must recognize the concrete sacrifices being made by Israel in the interest of peace. The immense risks to its own security, as well as the imposition of enormous financial burdens and the anguish to its well-being, must not be ignored or taken for granted by other countries. Now that Israel has honored its commitments, hopefully the other Camp David conditions for peace and reconciliation will be speedily fulfilled.”

Moshe Baram, a former Labor Minister in Israel, addressing the Jewish Labor Committee’s biennial convention here, predicted that the turn-over of Sinai to Egypt “would open a new chapter of peace for Israel.” He observed: “Despite the problems that will beset us, we will have peace, I predict, with all of our Arab neighbors. In spite of the efforts of some Arab states to paint us as villains before the world and the UN, we desire peace and we wili work toward peace.”

Rabbi Sol Roth, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said “it is time for prayer that the dimensions of Israel’s sacrifice may be appreciated by its Camp David partners, that Israel’s devotion to peace may be understood and acknowledged by the world community…and that Israel’s great sacrifice will ultimately lead to harmonious relationships with its neighbors.”

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