Labor Victory Seen As Inconclusive Step Towards Arab-israeli Peace

A Labor victory in the upcoming Israeli elections is an essential but inconclusive step towards an Arab-Israeli peace, according to speakers at a Peace Now-sponsored discussion.

“Though Labor may know the way to peace,” it is “far from certain” that Labor can muster the political will needed to follow its path, said Dr. Leonard Fein, founder, editor and publisher of Moment magazine, one of three speakers at a meeting in the Hebrew Union College.

American-born Peace Now activist Galia Golan, a professor of political science at Hebrew University, said the Israeli peace movement’s immediate task is to defeat Likud in the July 23 elections. She and the other speakers condemned Likud for creating “poisonous” and “tragic” divisions in Israeli society.

Golan said that after Labor is installed, Shalom Achshav, as Peace Now is called in Israel, must “act as the voice of the public” to counter expected heavy opposition and to encourage Labor to begin negotiations based on territorial compromise. She hopes, she said, that what she called Labor’s “hawkish” West Bank stance turns out to be only an election ploy.

OPPORTUNITY FOR A NEW APPROACH

“If Labor takes over, I don’t delude myself that a call to (Jordan’s King) Hussein will go out announcing that we are ready to yield part of the West Bank for peace,” said Zvi Barel, former West Bank correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. Barel, who was a former deputy military advisor for Arab affairs, has just become Ha’aretz’s new Washington correspondent.

Barel said a Labor victory merely presented Israel with an opportunity to work out a new approach to the West Bank, one based on greater autonomy for West Bank Arabs and greatly diminished settlement activity there. Hopefully, these steps would produce negotiations, he said.

Fein, a political scientist, who is critical of the Likud government, discussed the role of American Jews in the peace process. He told the audience of 140 people that American Jews not only have the right but the responsibility to speak out against present Israeli government policies.

While saying that open debate criticizing Israeli policies gives aid and comfort to Israel’s enemies, referring in part to what he called anti-Israel voices in the U.S. State Department, Fein contended this price to get Israel to change course is worth paying.

American Jews must oppose both Arabs and Jews who impede the path to negotiations, said Fein. “We can’t assume it will be Labor’s attitude alone that will stand in the way,” he said. Though Labor has long held that territorial compromise is the only way to obtain peace, Fein pointed out that Labor was unable to initiate negotiations from 1967 to 1977.

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