JERUSALEM (Mar. 22)
The Prime Minister’s Conference on Jewish Solidarity With Israel closed here Wednesday with the adoption of a broad final statement backing the unity government “in its efforts to achieve peace and security with its neighbors.”
The 144-word document, titled “The Jerusalem Declaration on Jewish Solidarity With Israel,” was read by Mordechai Gur of Labor, a Cabinet minister without portfolio, at closing ceremonies Wednesday evening at the Western Wall.
The declaration had been approved earlier in the day by a voice vote, after it was read to the morning plenary session by Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
There was little surprise in the document, as most of the words in the text were articulated by speakers during the course of the two-and-a-half-day conference.
“I think it is written well enough to satisfy all those who came here, who have divergent points of view,” said Ernest Michel, executive director of the UJA-Federation of New York.
Michel said the statement of support for the government does not give it a carte blanche.
“I don’t think it talks in any way about a certain policy,” he said. “It simply supports the desire of the government of Israel to arrive at peace.”
‘NOT ENGAGED IN SPECIFICS’
Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, agreed on the general nature of the statement.
“I think it’s clear, by the conveners of this conference and the participants, that we’re not engaged in specifics,” he said. “That’s for the government to decide.”
“This conference was not asked about the PLO, or borders, or anything else,” he said.
“We came to Jerusalem to demonstrate our solidarity with this government, to indicate to the world that we had confidence that the government would be speaking on behalf of the people of Israel.”
Cardin, who helped write the declaration, said that the sentence supporting the Israeli government was “the key phrase of the document. All of us — there wasn’t a single dissenting opinion — all of us felt that we had to support the national unity government and we had to say that we were supporting the national unity government.”
The 14-member drafting committee was made up of Diaspora leaders from seven countries. It included the chairpersons of the plenary sessions and some invited others.
Cardin said the group sat from 11 p.m. Tuesday night until 1:30 a.m., “reading and rereading it until all the points were covered.”
Said Reich, “I think the resolution encompasses the spirit of this conference: solidarity and unity, and to give this democratically elected government of Israel an opportunity to find peace.”
‘A GRAVE DISSERVICE’
But in one of the first public reactions to the declaration, a longtime critic of the American Jewish leadership said the solidarity conference had done “a grave disservice to the Jewish people and to Israel.”
Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, said in a statement that the net effect of the declaration was “to convey the wrong message at the wrong time.
“Precisely when the Israeli people needed to hear an unequivocal statement from American Jewry that Shamir must change his position and being to negotiate, the Israelis were told that American Jews were not really so upset at all,” Lerner said.
“This is a straightforward lie,” he said. “Very large numbers of American Jews are not willing to stand with the prime minister, even though they continue to support the State of Israel.”
On the other hand, Arden Shenker, chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, argued that the conference is “the most eloquent expression of our people’s unbreakable solidarity with and profound commitment to the security of the State of Israel.”