Menu JTA Search

Jackson Accepts First-ever Invitation to Visit Israel

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has accepted his first-ever official invitation to visit Israel, according to Jackson and an Israeli Embassy official.

While no date has yet been set for the visit, it will probably take place sometime within the next year, both parties said.

The invitation was extended by Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin at a meeting with Jackson on Thursday evening in Washington that both sides termed positive.

Jackson last visited Israel in 1979, but on that occasion he requested the visit, after having been invited to the West Bank, Syria, and other parts of the Middle East.

“This is the first time I’ve ever been invited” to visit Israel, Jackson said in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The Israeli Embassy official, Avi Granot, counselor for church and ethnic affairs, who attended the meeting, said that Beilin invited the black leader to visit Israel to witness the changes that have taken place over the last 13 years.

The meeting, which Granot called “pleasant” and Jackson called “very beneficial,” lasted an hour and a half, longer than expected.

The eight participants at the meeting, including Jackson and his aides, former Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, and Beilin and his aides, discussed the “situation in the Middle East,” Granot said.

DEPORTATIONS NOT DISCUSSED

The discussion did not include the issue of the Palestinian deportees, according to participants.

“We discussed the significance of keeping all parties at the bargaining table in the Middle East,” Jackson said.

Participants also talked about “the need to build and broaden ties between blacks and Jews in this country as part of a basic social justice movement,” Jackson said.

Other topics at the meeting included South Africa, the Holocaust, and Jackson’s efforts to help Syrian Jews leave their country.

In recent months, Jackson has reached out to the Jewish community in an attempt to build closer ties, holding well-publicized meetings with Jewish groups.

Relations between Jackson and the Jewish community have been touchy for years, ever since Jackson referred to New York as “Hymietown” during his 1984 run for the presidency.

In a related event, Beilin met with officials of the Clinton transition team Thursday, including Samuel Berger, nominated to be Clinton’s deputy national security adviser, and Leon Fuerth, a national security transition adviser.

The half-hour meeting included a brief appearance by Anthony Lake, nominated to be Clinton’s national security adviser.

Termed “extremely positive” by a Clinton transition spokesman, the discussion focused on the status of the peace process.

The spokesman said the transition officials sought to “ensure we have Israel’s best advice on how to completely engage the new administration on the peace process.”

NEXT STORY