WASHINGTON (Jun. 26)
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arad, complained Friday that the American Jewish community has not rallied American public opinion behind Israel’s peace initiative.
He suggested that this was because American Jews are not sufficiently aware of the Israeli plan, which he maintained is the “most important political and diplomatic initiative from the government of Israel since the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt.”
The envoy spoke at a meeting at the Israel Embassy here with reporters from the Jewish news media.
He devoted much of the 45-minute session to stressing that the Palestine Liberation Organization is still committed to terrorism against Israel and that the U.S. dialogue with the PLO has changed nothing.
According to Arad, an American Jewish community united in support of Israel’s peace initiative is essential to achieve the backing of American public opinion as a whole.
But Arad said that while he has not heard any major criticism of the proposals within the Jewish community, the required public support has not been forthcoming.
Arad’s explanation for this was that American Jews, like most Americans, have been so absorbed by events in China that they have not focused on the Israeli proposals.
“The American Jewish community is just not really informed about this,” Arad said.
He said that over the last two weeks, he spoke to groups in Houston, Los Angeles and New York, and “people came to me and told me they were unaware” of Israel’s proposals.
PLO IS NO MORE MODERATE
At the same time, Arad said that Israel was “heartened” by the support President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker have given the initiative.
The ambassador also insisted that the PLO remains committed to terrorism, despite Yasir Arafat’s renunciation of terrorism last December, which led to the U.S. decision to open a dialogue with the PLO.
“We feel that the six months of dialogue did not bring about a moderation or a reduction or a cessation of terrorist acts by the member organizations of the PLO,” he said.
He said PLO groups had tried to infiltrate Israel from Lebanon and committed acts of terrorism in Israel proper, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He claimed that nearly 50 percent of those killed in the West Bank and Gaza had been Palestinians murdered by other Palestinians because of their willingness to negotiate with Israel.
Arad pointed to recent remarks by Yasir Abed Rabbo, who has led the PLO delegation in talks with the United States. Rabbo has been quoted as saying Israelis “cannot become part of the region and of its peoples, its heritage and its culture, so long as Zionism continues.”