U.S. Jewish Leaders Grill Shamir During CJF Broadcast

Even as they praised Yitzhak Shamir for his success in shoring up Israel’s image during his talks with the Bush administration, Jewish leaders in 15 cities challenged the Israeli prime minister Wednesday with some of the toughest questioning of his 10-day visit.

Would Shamir be willing to trade land for peace? Is he prepared to make any concessions to achieve a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Is his stated opposition to a Palestinian state already a violation of his own claims for “no preconditions”?

The questions came during a live closed-circuit broadcast Wednesday afternoon carried by the Council of Jewish Federations Satellite Network. They were surprising in that they came not from confrontational journalists, but from members of the mainstream U.S. Jewish leadership.

Shamir’s answers, in turn, displayed the new-found gift for public relations that made his Washington visit a success.

For example, when asked by Boston lay leader Joshua Katzen about land for peace, a smiling Shamir replied, “I think there is not a need for any theoretical formulas.”

‘RELY ON US’

Shamir, who has in the past declared that he would relinquish “not one inch” of the West Bank or Gaza Strip, said that both sides will be able to present their proposals, “without any preconditions,” during a second stage of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to follow elections in the territories.

The purpose of such talks, he said, “has got to be a solution that would be acceptable to both parties.”

A stalwart opponent of land for peace called in with concerns about Shamir’s moderate-sounding language.

“Can we rely on you to hold firm?” asked Dr. Ivor Robinson, representing the Zionist Organization of America in Dallas.

“All of us are concerned that with this proposal we are taking risks. Sometimes you have to take risks,” said Shamir.

“But we know very well our interest and the demands of our interest. So please, my friend, rely on us.”

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