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U.S. Jewish Leader Urges Israel to Delay Peace Process No Longer

The head of American Jewry’s pre-eminent umbrella organization nudged Israel on Sunday to delay no longer implementing its own peace initiative, which includes negotiations with the Palestinians.

Secretary of State James Baker “is deserving of a response shortly,” Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told reporters before the opening of the conference’s annual meeting here Sunday night.

He was referring to the Bush administration’s reported frustration with Israel’s inability so far to agree on the terms for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

Reich acknowledged in a television interview that Baker had set a deadline for progress in the Middle East, after which he would turn his attention elsewhere.

“Clearly the next two weeks are very critical,” he said, adding that it would be very re- grettable if the secretary of state abandoned the peace process.

Reich said he understands that what is holding the process up now is the need to allay Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s fears that Israel’s security will be compromised.

The Israeli Cabinet will have to reach a decision, Reich said, adding that it is his “expectation that they will be able, hopefully, to move forward on the process.”

Reich stressed that the Bush administration and the American Jewish community are anxious that the peace process proceed.

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