Some Jewish Groups Urging Freeze on Settlements in the Territories

An increasing number of American Jewish leaders and organizations, mainly on the political left, are publicly urging Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to announce a freeze on building and expanding settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The latest to do so is Project Nishma, an organization of some 100 influential Jewish leaders that aims to educate the public about Israel’s security needs and the peace process.

A statement issued late Wednesday by Project Nishma’s 10-member executive board urged a temporary freeze “in the interest of larger national goals: immigrant absorption, a stronger economy and progress toward security and peace.”

The statement said that Shamir should announce the freeze and “state that the moratorium will be extended if Arab states and the Palestinians respond with reciprocal actions and commence good faith bilateral negotiations.”

Project Nishma said that if Shamir introduces a moratorium, “the prime minister can count on the enthusiastic support of the vast majority of Israelis and Diaspora Jews.”

Project Nishma’s board includes a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Theodore Mann; two former chairpersons of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, Jacqueline Levine and Michael Pelavin; and a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Edward Sanders, who also served as White House liaison to the Jewish community in the Carter administration.

ISRAEL WILL HAVE TO CHOOSE

On Thursday, some 50 members of Americans for Peace Now fanned out on Capitol Hill to urge members of Congress to speak out in support of a settlement freeze while backing Israel’s request for U.S. guarantees covering $10 billion in immigrant resettlement loans.

The Peace Now group also sponsored a panel discussion Thursday, during which the group’s Israeli spokeswoman, Hebrew University Professor Galia Golan, pointed out that recent polls show that the overwhelming majority of Israelis, including Likud voters, support a freeze on settlements.

She said that the opposition to settlement-building is motivated less by ideology than by anger at the funds being used in the territories when the rest of Israel is suffering economically.

That Jewish leaders are beginning to speak out publicly, not just privately, can be seen in a recent article by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, in which he stressed that Israel must face the present reality in the United States.

“To think that the administration and the president, who has always taken personally Israel’s continuing settlements, will not use this unique moment to exert their influence is to fool oneself,” he wrote.

Foxman said Israel will have to choose whether the loan guarantees are more important than the current settlement policy.

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