Americans for Peace Now Try to Win New Friends for Israel

Americans for Peace Now has begun efforts to win friends and build coalitions for Israel among sectors of the American public that may have been alienated in recent years when the right-wing Likud dominated Israeli politics.

In its first such event, Peace Now last week hosted 60 leaders from New York’s African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Jewish communities to hear Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin describe his government’s policies.

“One of our major organizational goals now is working to rebuild support for Israel in this country,” explained Americans for Peace Now Co-director Gail Pressberg, “particularly in places where (former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak) Shamir squandered some assets that had been built up over the years.”

Peace Now’s entry to the crowded field of intergroup dialogue follows speculation of what course the organization would take in the wake of Labor’s victory in the Israeli elections, which elevated Peace Now’s position from the opposition to the Cabinet.

Pressberg said her organization can bring something to intergroup discussion other Jewish groups cannot.

“Because we were outspokenly opposed to some of the things Shamir was doing, we have credibility that people in the other groups perhaps do not,” she said.

Pressberg said that the differences Beilin described between his Labor government and the preceding Likud government were received by his audience as “a breath of fresh air.”

Some of them, she said, wondered whether Beilin was making the new atmosphere clear to American Jewish groups.

“People told stories about times they had wanted to raise issues of human rights, the status of the territories, the settlements, and were discouraged from doing so,” said Pressberg.

As an additional qualification for hosting the dialogue, Pressberg noted that Peace Now is solely focused on Israel, unlike other multi-issue organizations.

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