JERUSALEM (Oct. 18)
Leaders of one of the biggest American Jewish umbrella groups have met with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and other Israeli leaders to be briefed on the peace process and to convey a message of strong support from their constituency back home.
“We told Rabin that polls show 80 percent plus (of American Jews) support the decision to go down this road with a mixture of hope and anxiety,” said Maynard Wishner, chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.
“Being here and meeting with the people charged with trying to implement the (Israeli-Palestinian) agreement helps us understand the complexity” of the process, said Martin Raffel, associate executive vice chair of NJCRAC and director of its Israel Task Force.
He said he gave Israelis “credit for recognizing the partnership” with American Jewry and their obligation to share information. Now, he said, “we are in a position to help interpret” to NJCRAC’s constituency the challenges ahead.
Wishner and Raffel were part of the 17-member delegation that delivered to the Israeli leadership an organizational policy statement of strong support for recent developments in the peace process. The statement was devised after two days of intensive meetings with representatives from all over the United States.
In Israel, delegates met with political leaders, strategic, military and economic analysts, diplomats, industrialists, administrators in the territories and members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
‘THINGS DON’T HAPPEN IMMEDIATELY’
They were impressed, they said, by the scope and complexity of the details that have yet to be worked out. But they were also impressed by the “seriousness of purpose” to make the agreement work by “those on the front lines” on both sides.
“Our charge is to communicate to our constituency it is a long process,” said Lynn Lyss, who will succeed Wishner as NJCRAC chair.
She said she was concerned that many have not looked “beyond the handshake” of Sept. 13 between Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and would be disappointed when “things don’t happen immediately.”
Her caution was echoed by Wishner. “We have tried to build an awareness that support for the process means being prepared to encounter difficult issues, and that not everything is in the hands of the Israelis,” he said.
The future may be fraught with difficulties, said Wishner, who added that he believes both sides need more “confidence-building” measures.
He said he told the Palestinians with whom he met that he has been disappointed by the absence of some such measures following Arafat’s pledge to renounce violence and to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Lawrence Rubin, NJCRAC executive vice chairman, said the umbrella group is planning a conference next month “to educate and energize its constituency to educate communities” about the peace process.
The leaders said they would continue meanwhile to reinforce the efforts by the United States to advance the peace process.