JERUSALEM, Sept. 23 (JTA) – Powerful foreign involvement in the Middle East peace process is on the upswing – and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is not the only player. Three other interventions have made the headlines in recent weeks. Taken together, these individual interventions may indicate a new standard in how Jews and Arabs living abroad who sympathize with the protagonists in the regional dispute exert pressure to achieve the results they want. Those involving themselves directly in the process include: * Dr. Irving Moskowitz, the Miami-based businessman who for some years has bankrolled the Jewish religious-rightist effort to house Jews in eastern Jerusalem, has clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his latest project in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud on the Mount of Olives. * Prominent American Jewish liberals, including veteran activists Theodore Mann and Robert Lifton, have spoken out more assertively than ever before in favor of a vigorous effort by Washington to push both Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. There was a clear implication of a recent letter sent to Albright by this group: Washington should pressure Israel as well as the Palestinians. * As-yet unnamed Arab millionaires are said to be mirroring the Moskowitz-style involvement by actively planning to purchase choice real estate in Jewish-populated western Jerusalem. According to Dr. Ahmed Tibi, a top aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, one such property is a centrally located office tower. Moskowitz is not the only – and certainly not the first – wealthy foreign supporter of right-wing causes in Israel and the territories. Gush Emunim, the largely Orthodox settler movement that grew up in the 1970s, was always active in raising funds abroad. Cyril Stein, the British Jewish tycoon, is one of several noted philanthropists that has been associated with Gush Emunim. Further to the right, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane drew virtually all of his material support from American Jewish sources. Moskowitz’s rise to prominence stems not so much from the size of the funds he puts at the disposal of land-purchasing groups, such as the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, but from his unerring choice of super-sensitive sites and his close links to Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert. Indeed, Moskowitz was involved with – and present for – the opening last year of a new entrance to an archaeological tunnel alongside the Western Wall. The opening of that entrance, which the Palestinians said threatened Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount, triggered three days of violence last September in which 15 Israelis and 61 Palestinians were killed. Observers here, among them sources close to the prime minister, believe that Moskowitz is guided by Olmert for the mayor’s own political ends. They contend that Olmert aspires to be prime minister and regards periodic eruptions of tension over Jerusalem as a way of keeping his name in the headlines. Moskowitz’s battle last week with Netanyahu over whether a Jewish presence should be maintained in Ras al-Amud served the mayor’s publicity efforts, they say. Under a compromise reached last week, three Jewish families living in a building owned by Moskowitz left voluntarily, but 10 yeshiva students stayed to maintain a Jewish presence. The compromise saved Netanyahu from having to forcibly remove the families, a politically volatile step given threats from right-wing members of Netanyahu’s coalition that such an action would bring down the government. But Palestinian Authority officials condemned the compromise and a former Palestinian resident of the building came forward to counter Moskowitz. Fuad Hadiyeh this week filed a police complaint which said that documents claiming that he had sold the building to Moskowitz were forged. The recent letter issued by a group of prominent American Jewish doves can be seen, to a certain extent, as a counterweight to Moskowitz, who finds strong support among the relatively small but intensely motivated Orthodox community in the United States. Mann, Lifton and the other 38 signatories who issued their letter to coincide with Albright’s recent first attempt at peacemaking in the region, intend to “educate” the Clinton administration about the diversity of views on Israeli-Palestinian peace within the American Jewish community. Palestinians, meanwhile, have long been envious of Israel’s ability to mobilize the Diaspora. Fund raising for Palestinian causes has never seemed to tap into the substantial wealth of the Palestinian community abroad, let alone the wider Arab and Muslim communities. But that may be changing. The heightened readiness of Palestinians abroad to take specific and outspoken political positions may serve as a catalyst for fund-raising efforts among them. According to Tibi, individual Palestinian philanthropists are taking personal responsibility in advancing their side’s position in the stalled peace process. A century ago, when Zionism began, Jewish settlers raised funds abroad to buy land in Israel from absentee Arab landlords. Now, with the Jewish tactics, at least among those on the right, fundamentally unchanged, the modern-day equivalents of the Arab absentee landlords may be shedding their passivity and learning from the Jews how to use their wealth to influence the course of events in the Middle East.
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