Israel Needs Loans and Settlements, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Tells Bush

Israel needs both U.S. guarantees for $10 billion in loans and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel’s chief Ashkenazic rabbi told President Bush this week.

Rabbi Avraham Shapira said that during a brief meeting with Bush at the White House on Tuesday, he tried to explain that choosing between the two was similar to the choice King Solomon gave two women who each claimed the same baby as their child.

The rabbi said the president did not respond. The Bush administration has told Israel that it will not guarantee the loans, which are needed for absorbing immigrants, unless Israel stops building settlements.

Shapira gave this account in Hebrew to an Israeli television reporter. But in remarks that were translated into English, the chief rabbi said he visited Bush as a rabbi, not as a politician or diplomat.

He presented Bush with a Bible and thanked the president, not only for what he has done for Israel, but also the world. Specifically, the chief rabbi praised Bush for speaking out against bigotry and the taking of hostages.

When he was asked about newspaper reports that Secretary of State James Baker used an obscenity in referring to American Jews, Shapira replied, “This is what the newspapers said, and one does not always need to believe what is in the newspapers.”

Edward Djerejian, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who was standing behind the rabbi, shook his head in agreement.

Baker has vehemently denied making the remark, which was first reported last week by the New York Post.

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