NEW YORK (Feb. 28)
An American Zionist leader believes that there will be no Israeli peace initiative in the Middle East “as long as Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his Likud party control Israeli foreign policy.”
That charge was made by Menachem Rosensaft, president of the Labor Zionist Alliance, in an article published Tuesday on the op-ed page of The New York Times.
Rosensaft was one of five American Jews who met with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat in Stockholm last December.
After that meeting, “right-wing Israelis and their acolytes in the American Jewish establishment immediately denounced us as ‘willing dupes,’ ” the writer recalled.
In his case, he claimed, he was almost drummed out of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, of which he is a member.
Rosensaft’s view that the Shamir regime and peace are antithetical is based on his contention that Likud and its adherents have no intention of bargaining for peace with the Arabs.
“Israelis like Prime Minister Shamir and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens believe that the Jewish people have a God-given right to all of the biblical ‘Land of Israel,’ which they define as including the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” he wrote.
“The principles and platform of their Likud party preclude even the slightest compromise with respect to any part of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.”
Rosensaft maintained that Likud’s “hard-line views have little to do with security concerns.”
DOESN’T REFLECT PUBLIC OPINION
He said its leaders “understand that the very act of talking to the PLO implies an acknowledgement of precisely those Palestinian nationalist aspirations that are incompatible with their absolutist vision of a ‘Greater Israel.’”
According to Rosensaft, it is “naive to think that Mr. Shamir will present a credible peace proposal when he visits Washington this spring.
“More likely, he will put forward yet another public relations scheme designed to deflect attention from his intransigence,” Rosensaft wrote.
The writer credited Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of the Labor Party with supporting the principle of trading land for peace.
But he did not mention the fact that both of these leaders have criticized the U.S. move to open a dialogue with representatives of the PLO.
Rosensaft cited recent polls that show a slim majority of Israelis support talks between their government and the PLO.
“Neither the Palestinians nor the Bush administration should be misled into believing that Mr. Shamir’s views accurately reflect Israeli public opinion,” Rosensaft wrote.
He observed that Shamir heads a government elected “before Yasir Arafat’s dramatic recognition of Israel at Stockholm and Geneva in December 1988.”
In his view, “there is still hope for a genuine peace process, but it depends on the ability of pragmatic moderates on both sides to displace the idealogues.”