Group of American Jews Charges Shamir Doesn’t Truly Want Peace

A group of prominent American Jews, who believe their views “truly represent the majority views of American Jews,” charged here this week that the government of Israel is not really interested in peace.

The group wound up a five-day visit Wednesday expressing concern that the talks between Israeli leaders and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker were getting nowhere, and they blamed the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Theodore Mann, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that whereas Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini is “as moderate a Palestinian as one is likely to find,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens does not seem to change his views on the conflict.

Their fact-finding mission was sponsored by Project Nishma, a Jewish educational project that supports the views of Israel’s Council for Peace and Security.

The council is composed of retired Israel Defense Force senior officers who maintain that Israel’s security needs can be fully satisfied without continuing to rule over more than a million Palestinians.

“We believe our views truly represent the majority views of American Jews,” Mann said. “We expressed concern that the present ‘window of opportunity’ may not remain open much longer,” he added, recalling the group’s meeting with Arens.

“Window of opportunity” is a favorite metaphor of the Bush administration to describe the situation in the Middle East since the Persian Gulf war.

Mann said his group came to Israel under the impression that it was heading toward peace. “Maybe we are wrong; perhaps things are going on between Shamir and Baker that we don’t know about,” Mann said.

But he was not hopeful.

“It is clear to me that this government is no more interested this year in withdrawal (from the administered territories) than it was last year,” Mann said.

He warned that in the event of a political stalemate in the Middle East, the United States would exert pressure on Israel and on the other parties to the conflict, “because without such pressure, peace would be difficult to achieve.”

In addition to Mann, the group of 14 included such leaders as Hyman Bookbinder, former Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee; Esther Leah Ritz, past president of JWB and of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation; and three past national chairs of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council: Michael Pelavin of Flint, Mich.; Jacqueline Levine of Metro West, N.J.; and Jordan Band of Cleveland.

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