JERUSALEM (Sep. 12)
Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir has blasted the American Jewish Congress mission to Cairo and Amman this week, and also World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman’s mission to Moscow this week. (See related story P. 4.)
In an exclusive interview with this reporter, Shamir spoke of the AJC as a “peanut-size organization,” and said Bronfman was “not authorized to negotiate on behalf of Israel or the Jewish people.” Shamir acknow ledged that his views differed from those of Premier Shimon Peres on this matter.
The AJCongress group met with President Hosni Mubarak and King Hussein this week in an attempt to ascertain peace prospects. They reported to Peres in Jerusalem yesterday that both the President and the King were urging that the PLO “should be put to the test” of diplomacy.
The group, led by Prof. Henry Rosovsky, the Harvard savant, issued a statement expressing their conviction that Egypt and Jordan seek to broaden the peace process urgently, “before forces of religious and political extremism make this task impossible.” (See September 12 Bulletin.)
Bronfman’s visit to Moscow, at the head of a group of Seagrams executives, follows a preparatory visit some six weeks ago by his top WJC aide, Israel Singer, who met with ranking Soviet officials involved with Jewish emigration.
Bronfman hopes to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev or other politburo members. He reportedly carried with him a letter from Peres to Gorbachev. which Peres conveyed to him two weeks ago. Israel officials said the letter had been “couched in general terms.”
SEE INCURSIONS ON ISRAEL’S PREROGATIVE
Shamir, interviewed here today, sought to pooh-pooh both missions. But this did not conceal his anger at what he plainly feels are incursions upon Israel’s prerogative to speak for itself, and also for world Jewry.
He said he was aware that the Soviets were interested in oil-drilling equipment which the Du Pont Company, part-owned by Bronfman, could sell them. But this gave Bronfman no standing to speak for Jewish issues, Shamir asserted.
Turning to the AJCongress Mideast mission, Shamir remarked: ‘Who elected them? Who empowered them to enter into negotiations on the Israel-Arab conflict? They merely serve as instruments in the hands of the Arabs to score points against us.”
Asked “who elects” other American Jewish organizational leaders, with whom Shamir and his ministry regularly and closely work, Shamir replied: “At least they (the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and other organizations) ask us, consult with us …. The Anti-Defamation League (of B’nai B’rith) would never have done this, nor would B’nai B’rith, nor the American Jewish Committee.”
He singled out for special criticism Howard Squadron, a former president of the AJCongress and a former chairman of the Presidents Conference, who was a moving spirit of the AJCongress mission. Shamir described how Squadron, on a previous occasion, had told him of a lavish welcome he had received in Cairo, complete with motorcycle out-riders. “So what?” Shamir said, “Big deal ….”
A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE
Shamir said the controversy in Israel over the two missions — Bronfman’s and the AJCongress — was “not along ideological lines. I am sure there are a great many people in Mr. Peres party who would agree with me.”
He recalled how forcefully Premier Golda Meir had opposed — and eventually prevented — Nahum Gold-mann’s proposed visit to Egypt to meet with President Nasser.
It was a matter of principle, Shamir said. “The world must know that Israel represents the Jewish people on Jewish problems. Jewish organizations ought not to undertake political work — except when Israel asks them to.”
Sometimes, he noted, where Israel had no access, such efforts were vital and valuable. But otherwise it should be Israel that speaks for Jewry on the world stage.