WASHINGTON (Aug. 11)
A coalition of American Jewish groups opposed to trading land for peace has embarked on a media campaign aimed at “redirecting” the Middle East peace process.
The peace process, which is backed by the U.S. government and the Labor government of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, will lead to tragic results, the coalition believes.
The Coalition for Israel has support among a variety of organizations on the right of the American Jewish political spectrum. It held a news conference here Monday to begin its campaign.
“The message we have for the Congress and the administration is, ‘Hey, don’t count on American Jewish support for the direction of the peace process in its current form,'” said Elliot Jager, a coalition official.
The group is organizing a petition drive among American Jews, to call for a referendum in Israel before the Rabin government agrees to any territorial compromises.
While the majority of American Jews support the peace process and welcome the Clinton administration’s approach to the negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, speakers at Monday’s event said that they themselves represent an often-ignored segment of American Jewish public opinion.
Speaking to a small audience, Coalition for Israel representatives said they were in favor of “peace for peace,” a formula involving water rights, trade, commerce and diplomatic relations, but not land concessions.
“Peace negotiations should really have very little to do with land,” said the coalition’s president, Howard Weber.
SHOULDN’T SUFFER LIKE CZECHOSLOVAKIA
Speaker Dennis Seaman, who serves on the national board of the right-wing Betar movement, compared the current situation in Israel with the late-1930s position of Czechoslovakia, which was carved up and overrun by Nazi Germany.
“I don’t want Israel to suffer the same fate as Czechoslovakia,” Seaman said.
Coalition leaders said that by sponsoring the petition for an Israeli referendum, they were not telling the government of Israel what to do. Instead, they said, they were calling on the Israeli people to decide on the country’s future.
Coalition members met Monday with Dennis Ross, the State Department’s peace talks coordinator; the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; and officials at The Washington Post.
The news conference manifested a new trend toward criticism of Israeli policies by American Jewish groups to the right of the mainstream.
During the Likud governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, it was groups more to the left of the American Jewish mainstream that voiced opposition to Israeli government policies.
The coalition’s approach was criticized Monday by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Foxman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the coalition is acting to “substitute their judgment for the judgment of the Israeli people.”
Such activities, he said, were “not right two or three years ago coming from the left, and are equally wrong now.”