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Peace Now Gets New Leader As New Jewish Agenda Folds

Americans for Peace Now expects to increase its profile and influence in the established American Jewish community, following the naming of an American Jewish Committee official as its chief executive officer.

Gary Rubin will move from the centrist AJCommittee, where he is director of national affairs, to the dovish Peace Now on Nov. 1.

And in an unrelated move, another organization that has long agitated for Israeli-Palestinian peace, New Jewish Agenda, has decided to fold its tent and go out of business.

The organization, which was founded in 1980, had closed its national office last year for lack of funds. Now local chapters will continue to operate in cities such as Detroit and Boston, but the national organization will cease to exist.

“It’s difficult for progressive organizations to survive nowadays,” said Ira Grupper, who was the group’s national co-chairman.

He noted the irony of the organization disbanding even as its policies regarding Israel and the Palestinians, once regarded as anathema, are being accepted by the Israeli government.

Meanwhile, the hiring of Rubin to head Americans for Peace Now is being seen as a coup for that organization.

“It puts it solidly on the track of being not only part of the Jewish community but a leading and active player in the established Jewish community,” said an official of another organization, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

APN, which is associated with the Israeli Peace Now movement, has long advocated policies such as mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization which placed it outside the mainstream of American Jewish organizational life, particularly under Israel’s Likud government.

With the signing of the accord between Israel and the PLO, APN is one of a handful of Jewish organizations able to support the Israeli government’s policies enthusiastically without appearing to flip-flop from long-held positions.

PRESSBURG TO BE APN WASHINGTON ENVOY

APN first moved toward the organizational mainstream following the Labor Party’s victory in Israel’s 1992 elections, when it sought admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Six months ago, in a hotly debated vote, the Conference of Presidents accepted APN’s application. Critics had argued that the inclusion of the dovish group in the umbrella organization could prevent the conference from uniting in consensus behind the government of Israel.

The critics had put the spotlight on APN’s chief executive officer, Gail Pressberg, whose activism for Middle East peace over the years had many times put her closer to the Palestinian stance than to that of the Jewish community.

Pressberg will now become APN’s Washington representative, a post she held before assuming the duties of chief executive officer last year.

APN supporters hope Rubin’s long service in the Jewish community will enable the group to help rally a consensus in the Conference of Presidents behind Israel’s peace policies.

“We’re acting now essentially in support of the governmental position,” said Rubin. “I still anticipate there will be many policy issues to be made down the road, having to do with the land, security issues, where people go physically,” he said.

“Shalom Achshav (as Peace Now is called in Israel) will have its own position, and APN will be supporting those positions in the United States,” he said.

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