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Ajcommittee Issues Major Policy Statement on the Mideast

The American Jewish Committee, in a major policy statement, took issue with Israel’s West Bank settlement policy as unhelpful to the peace process with Jordan in accordance with the Camp David accords. At the same time, it called on King Hussein of Jordan “to seize the opportunity offered him” in line with the accords “to join unequivocally and without preconditions in peace negotiations with Israel.”

If he does so, the policy statement said, the AJCommittee “would be prepared actively to urge the government of Israel to be flexible in such negotiations and to make significant compromises for the sake of peace, as it did in response to the peace initiative of President (Anwar) Sadat of Egypt.”

But if Hussein “and moderate Palestinians once again reject the opportunity for full participation offered them by President Reagan (in his September I initiative) or if their acceptance is hedged by crippling preconditions then it should be made clear to the American public that the absence of peace is due not to Israel’s settlement policies or alleged ‘intransigence’, but rather to the fundamental refusal of the Arab world to accept the permanent reality and legitimacy of the State of Israel.”

The AJCommittee statement, titled “Position Statement on the Middle East.” was issued by AJC’s president Maynard Wishner. The statement, released publicly last Friday, had been unanimously adopted after extensive discussion by the AJC’s Board of Governors at its meeting March 21. Wishner noted that the policy statement had been issued before President Reagan’s comment on March 31 that he was suspending the sale of promised F-16 jet fighters to Israel until Israel completed its withdrawal from Lebanon.

URGES U.S. TO REFRAIN FROM APPLYING PRESSURE

The policy statement emphasized that the U.S. “should refrain from applying unilateral pressure on Israel and should not slow down or stop the shipment of military equipment to Israel, our most important strategic ally in the Middle East.” The statement also pointed out that Israel could not be expected to withdraw from Lebanon until effective arrangements for its security against terrorist attack from Lebanon had been negotiated and Syrian and PLO forces had also agreed to withdraw.

The statement noted that the Camp David accords led to the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. These accords also called on Israel, Egypt and Jordan and the Arab inhabitants in the West Bank and Gaza to proceed with negotiations on the future status of these areas. “The refusal of Jordan and the Palestinian representatives to participate in such negotiations has been the major impediment to achieving the broader peace foreseen at Camp David.”

ISRAEL’S AND JORDAN’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Continuing, the statement said:

“The American Jewish Committee calls upon Jordan and the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza to join in direct negotiations, as called for in the Camp David accords. The American Jewish Committee is confident that an expression of willingness on the part of Jordan to commence negotiations — with or without participation by the Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank — would be met by Israeli flexibility and willingness to make the necessary compromises to achieve peace, consistent with its security needs.

“Jordan, too, would be expected to make compromises. Therefore, no party should set preconditions to the negotiations envisaged at Camp David, for they serve only to delay their commencement.

“The American Jewish Committee believes that UN Security Council Resolution 242 embraced in the Camp David accords, as applied to the West Bank and Gaza, ought to lead to territorial compromise through negotiations and to full peace between Israel and her neighbors. As negotiations commence, we can expect the parties to place maximal positions on the table including their respective claims to sovereignty. These positions will have to be compromised in the course of such negotiations.

“Therefore, we view acts by Israel which could limit the flexibility necessary to enable the parties to reach agreement on the future status of the areas as being unhelpful to the peace process.

“Moreover, the American Jewish Committee shares the concerns of many Israelis that the continuing and indefinite Israeli administration of the West Bank and Gaza, with governance over the lives of more than a million Arabs who are not citizens of Israel, could in the course of time undermine the democratic and humane principles of the State of Israel.

“The American Jewish Committee believes that in the absence of negotiations concerning the West Bank and Gaza, it may well be that Israel’s current settlement policy, if continued, may make withdrawal at a later date no longer a viable option for any Israeli government. There is an urgent need, therefore, for Jordan to enter into negotiations with Israel now.”

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