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Ajcongress Body Urges Israel to Pursue U.S. Peace Plan

March 23, 1988
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Delegates to the national biennial convention of the American Jewish Congress voted overwhelmingly here Monday night for a resolution urging Israel to welcome and pursue energetically the new American peace initiative in the Middle East.

The resolution, adopted by a show of hands, supports the components of the peace plan advanced by Secretary of State George Shultz, which include an international conference and, implicitly, the principle of trading territory for peace.

It reaffirms the position taken by the AJCongress Governing Council in September 1987 considered unprecedented for a mainstream Jewish organization — which warned that if no political adjustments are made with respect to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, “demographic imperatives will force Israel to choose between becoming a non-Jewish state or a non-democratic state,” neither choice being acceptable.

The resolution adopted at the convention states that “the status quo in the Middle East cannot realistically be maintained and morally ought not to be maintained.”

The convention, which is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the AJCongress and Israel’s 40th anniversary, also adopted resolutions calling for welfare reform in the United States and the immediate withdrawal of American troops sent to Honduras by President Reagan last week.

It approved overwhelmingly Monday night a resolution urging Congress to override Reagan’s veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act, which was passed by large bipartisan majorities in the Senate and House a week ago.

Both chambers of Congress overrode the veto Tuesday — the Senate by a vote of 73-24 and the House by a vote of 292-133.


The convention also elected Robert Lifton as its new national president, succeeding Theodore Mann. Lifton was scheduled to deliver an acceptance speech Tuesday evening.

Other highlights of the four-day gathering, which began Sunday, include a keynote address by Stuart Eizenstat, a former adviser to President Jimmy Carter, and appearances by Egyptian Ambassador Abdel Raouf EI-Reedy, Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)

The Middle East resolution was adopted late Monday night, following two hours of intense debate. All amendments proposed from the floor were rejected.

The resolution notes that many Israelis prefer bilateral negotiations with Jordan to an international conference. “If it were available as a political reality (it) would be a preferable course to follow,” the document acknowledges.

But since bilateral negotiations are not presently possible, Israel is called on “to display the boldness and imagination required for the achievement of genuine progress toward peace.”

The resolution observes that “the Palestinians have never missed a chance to miss an opportunity” and challenges them “to make those minimal commitments that Israelis have every right to expect of them — recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence.”

The resolution makes clear that “Israel’s very existence is not a topic for discussion or negotiations.” It emphasizes that the Palestine Liberation Organization has not earned the right to participate in peace negotiations.


“As long as the PLO persists in refusing to abolish its infamous Palestine National Covenant, which calls openly for Israel’s destruction, the Israelis will have nothing to talk about with that organization,” the resolution states. It notes that Secretary Shultz insists that “Palestinian representation will have to take place through participation in a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.”

The resolution refers to safeguards for Israel agreed to last year between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and King Hussein of Jordan, which Shultz incorporated in his plan.

These bar the international conference from imposing solutions or vetoing agreements: They require all participants to renounce violence and terrorism and to accept U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, which call for the return of land in exchange for peace.

In a convention address Sunday night, Eizenstat, who was Carter’s domestic policy adviser, urged American Jews to participate actively in the debate in Israel about the future and direction of the Jewish state.

“It simply will not wash in this day and age for Israel to ask American Jews for support of their policies in the United States and not be willing to hear constructive suggestions and advice,” he said.

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