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Reich, Yoffie blast group on Jerusalem

A former chairman of the Conference of Presidents and the Reform movement blasted the conference on its Jerusalem stance.

A resolution passed last week by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations “reaffirms” the umbrella group’s “longstanding position supporting the united City of Jerusalem as the eternal, sovereign capital of Israel.”

The vote was taken at the initiative of a number of U.S. Jewish groups that sympathize with Israeli right wing political parties and were alarmed at reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was ready to negotiate sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

“The real message is to thwart any negotiations after Annapolis,” Seymour Reich, a past conference chairman, told JTA, referring to the U.S.-convened Israeli Palestinian peace talks launched last month in Maryland. “It doesn’t help the Conference to have that image.”

Also lambasting the vote was Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “The Jewish community in the U.S. cannot at this moment make things difficult for Israel and it mustn’t tell the Israeli government not to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem,” Yoffie, who voted against the resolution, told Israel’s daily Ha’aretz. “The timing of the vote and the reaffirmation of the organization’s known stance regarding Jerusalem at this time is a wrong message whose goal isn’t concern for Jerusalem but to demonstrate dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Olmert.”

Olmert shrugged off Diaspora Jewish opposition to Jerusalem negotiations during his U.S. visit, saying Israel would negotiate as a sovereign nation, although he also insisted that Jerusalem was not now on the table.

The conference is the foreign policy umbrella for U.S. Jewish groups. It is comprised of over 50 affiliates and must have strong majority support before it issues statements. Reich, currently president of the Israel Policy Forum, attended the vote in his capacity as a past chairman. The IPF is not affiliated with the conference.

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