JERUSALEM (Dec. 1)
American Jewish public opinion is divided on policies of the Israel government in the some way that Israeli public opinion is divided on the same issue, Tzaly Reshef, 29, chief spokesman of the Peace Now movement, and one of its founders, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Reshef returned from a two-week visit to 10 American cities, in which he presented the views of his movement, and tried to boost the activities of American Friends of Peace Now which supports the Israeli dovish organization. Reshef noted, though, one major difference between American Jewry and Israeli public opinion.
“Whereas we have no problems expressing our criticism of the government, American Jews have a difficulty expressing it,” he said. Although Reshef is well aware that American Jews do not wish to interfere in the internal issues of Israel, one of his efforts during the tour was to convince them to speak out.
First I tried to convince them of the positions of Peace Now. Then I told them that those who agree with us, but still keep quiet, harm the State of Israel,” Reshef said.
USES ARENS AS AN EXAMPLE
In all the meetings, Reshef brought up the example of a recent recommendation by Israel’s Ambassador, Moshe Arens, to the government to freeze the settlements on the West Bank for a period of half a year.
“I argued that Arens, who is not suspected of having anything against the settlements, would not have made such a recommendation had it not been for the influence of Israel’s friends in the U.S. — Jews, Senators and newsmen,” Reshef stated.
A lawyer by profession, Reshef was one of the founders of Peace Now in March 1978, when the movement was formed as an extra-parliamentary movement, designed to push the government toward successful conclusion of the peace negotiations with Egypt. In 1980 he left for the U.S. for graduate law studies at Harvard University.
During his absence, the movement underwent a crisis, with most of the original leaders leaving. The crisis continued until after the general elections. Reshef returned last year, to help put the movement back on its feet — and soon engaged in public campaigns, demanding a completion of the withdrawal from Sinai — at the time the movement to halt the withdrawal picked up momentum — criticizing the settlements policy in the territories, and recently, denouncing the war in Lebanon.
Peace Now was one of the main organizers of the massive demonstration in Tel Aviv last September in which some 400,000 Israelis gathered to demand that the government appoint a judicial commission into the Sabra and Shatila massacres.
Following the rally, overseas interest in Peace Now mushroomed and Reshef was sent to the U.S. and Canada where he visited, among other cities, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New Haven, Toronto, and Los Angeles. In the latter city he met with delegates attending the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations.
The visit, which included meetings with Jewish officials and grass roots Jews, reinforced his impression that the Israeli government was “misleading the Israeli public” that it enjoyed total support of world Jewry, specifically North American Jewry “There is no such total support,” Reshef said, neither in the leadership nor among grass roots Jews. By way of confirming this, he cited an example:
“On the way back to Israel, in Zurich, I met government Secretary Dan Meridor, who returned from a United Jewish Appeal tour to America. Meridor was under the impression that support for the government is greater than he had expected. My impression was completely to the contrary. Of course part of the explanation is that we each spoke to audiences which came to hear each one of us, but I am convinced that the line of Peace Now enjoys considerable support in the U.S.”
Peace Now objected to the war in Lebanon, and is in favor of a territorial compromise in the administered territories. As such it come out in support of President Reagan’s plan. Reshef said that peace Now considers the main goal to be Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, and to work for the full implementation of the decisions of the commission of inquiry once it completes its investigation into the massacres in the west Beirut refugee camps.