NEW YORK (Apr. 4)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir arrived here Tuesday and bluntly defended his opposition to giving up more land for peace.
“No Arab ruler has ever been asked to give territory for peace,” the prime minister said in a speech prepared for delivery to an audience of American Jewish leaders Tuesday night.
Shamir did not go into the proposals he expected to take to Washington Wednesday for his meetings with the Bush administration, except to say, “We believe the Palestinian Arabs should have self-rule, the maximum that is compatible with our security.”
The prime minister is expected to propose elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in which Palestinians would select representatives to negotiate an autonomy arrangement with Israel.
Shamir also did not address remarks Monday by President Bush, who told visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Egypt and the United States “share the goals of security for Israel, an end of the occupation and achievement of Palestinian politicial rights.”
Instead, Shamir focused on threats to Israeli security, including “the fanatic terrorism which originates in our region.” He reiterated his pledge never to enter into negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Denouncing the land-for-peace formula, Shamir pointed out that Israel had already given up the Sinai desert in exchange for peace with Egypt.
‘HORRORS OF BEIRUT’ IN JERUSALEM
“But the Sinai desert is not Judea-Samaria and Gaza,” he said. “Withdrawing from these populated areas means bringing the horrors of Beirut to the vicinity of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It means giving Arab armies access to the hills of Judea and Samaria, which dominate our country. It means putting Israel in greater jeopardy than that of June 1967.
Above all, these areas, unlike the Sinai, are part of Eretz Yisrael,” he said. “We have a 3,000-year claim on them.”
But in somewhat of a departure, Shamir acknowledged that the Palestinian Arabs also say they have a claim to the territories and that they have a “right to put their claim against ours.”
“That is what negotiations are for,” he said. “We shall present our claim and they will present theirs and we shall reach a settlement. It will not completely satisfy eitther side, but we shall be able to live with it.”
Shamir’s speech began with a reference to last month’s Jewish solidarity conference in Israel, during which Diaspora Jewish leaders showed him “how important it is for us to be united, to speak as one people.”
Jewish leaders in New York attempted to put together a similar show of unity Tuesday, but their effort was challenged by a number of critics of Shamir’s policies.
Some 200 supporters of the prime minister showed up at Kennedy Airport at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to welcome him as he stepped from his airplane. The rally was organized by the local Zionist Organization of America chapter.
UNITY VS, DIVERSITY
Shamir’s aides were gearing for a rousing reception for the prime minister this evening at Town Hall, a large auditorium in midtown, where Shamir was to deliver his speech. That event was co-sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and New York’s Jewish Community Relations Council.
Like appearances last year in Brooklyn and Miami, the opening event of Shamir’s U.S. visit was to be a carefully controlled affair meant to enhance Shamir’s standing before his talks in Washington. He was not expected to field questions from the invitations-only audience or press.
Organizers were prepared for charges that the event would be an endorsement of Shamir’s policies. So, they arranged to have his speech followed by a reading of the solidarity conference’s declaration of unity.
Reading the statement was meant to indicate that “the Jewish community as a whole has established a fundamental base of support for Israel, despite the fact that we disagree on a number of important issues,” said Michael Miller, executive director of the New York JCRC.
That same tack was taken in a full-page advertisement in Tuesday’s New York Times, placed by B’nai B’rith International.
“There may be differences among us, just as there are differences among Israelis, on how best to deal with the intifada and on the most effective way to find peace,” the ad says. “Our strength as a community lies not in our sameness, but in our diversity — and our unity.”
Some other organizations, however, felt that Tuesday evening’s meeting would sacrifice diversity for the sake of unity.
NEWSPAPER ADS AND RALLIES
Mark Gold, president of Americans for Progressive Israel, said representatives of his organizations would not be attending the meeting because it would “misrepresent us as expressing support for Shamir’s polices.”
Gold, who said Shamir’s “Woefully inadequate” policies could lead to a breach in U.S. Israel relations, called the event a “political show being used to influence voter opinion at home.”
Also objecting to expressions of Jewish solidarity with the prime minister were 180 signers of an ad slated to appear in Wednesday’s New York Times.
“No, Mr. Shamir,” reads the ad. “Don’t assume that American Jews support your polices toward the Palestinians.”
The ad was sponsored by Tikkun, a progressive Jewish magazine, and signed by, among others, Tikkun editor Michael Lerner, television producer Norman Lear, playwright Arthur Miller, and writers Philip Roth, Betty Friedan and Irving Howe.
It urges negotiations with the PLO and an end to the “continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.” It concludes by telling Shamir that “you do not have a blank check for American Jewry to continue these policies.”