NEW YORK (May. 19)
Braving a steady rain, 750 supporters of Shimon Peres attended a rally for the Israeli foreign minister at an 1,100-seat Manhattan synagogue Wednesday.
They responded warmly to Peres’ defense of his Labor Party’s land-for-peace policies and his call for negotiations with Palestinians.
The tone of the rally, held at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, contrasted sharply with events held in the United States in March, during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
When Shamir returned to Israel following that trip, he presented his boisterous reception at meetings in Miami and New York as proof that the American Jewish community fully supported the policies of his Likud bloc.
Peres evidently prefers low-keyed analysis of his party’s positions to the emotional and at times defiant approach of the premier.
Wednesday’s rally was his only appearance in New York open to the public. It was sponsored by a committee that included leaders of Reform and Conservative organizations and American groups that support Israel’s Labor Party.
Peres told the audience the purpose of his U.S. visit was “to see that the peace process would not fade away, not die away, not stop.”
Earlier in the week, his efforts were applauded by President Reagan, who contrasted the foreign minister with leaders who are “negative, consistently reject new ideas and fail to exploit realistic opportunities.”
The president’s remarks caused a political stir in Israel, where members of the Likud bloc interpreted them as a snub of Shamir.
Peres’ only reference to the flap was in his answer to the sole heckler at the rally, who demanded to know who speaks for the Palestinians.
“Let’s first find those who can speak for ourselves, then we should look for somebody else,” said Peres.
Peres was scheduled to address commencement ceremonies at the Jewish Theological Seminary here Thursday afternoon.