Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a letter to President Reagan that it was the consensus of the 36 national Jewish groups comprising the organization that the President’s Middle East peace proposal “does violence to the spirit of Camp David because it substitutes a specific American plan for the free give-and-take that is essential if the parties to the dispute are to resolve their differences.”
“In our judgement,” Berman added, “this is the wrong step, at the wrong time and for the wrong reason.”
But the letter to Reagan, which was sent Tuesday also pointed out that the Presidents Conference found several positive points in the Administration’s proposal. The group, Berman said, welcomed Reagan’s efforts to achieve renewed Israeli-Arab negotiations; his call on Arab states to “accept the reality of Israel as a necessary precondition for progress toward peace”; and his declaration that there must be no Palestinian state on the West Bank, and that Israel must not be required to return to its pre-1967 borders.
“These statements give weight and substance to your reaffirmation of our country’s ‘ironclad’ commitment to Israel’s security,” the letter said. “But it is precisely because of that pledge…that we take exception to other parts of your address, which seem contradictory to the basic premise that you so well expressed.”
THE VIEW FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Berman’s letter to Reagan was sent several hours after the appearance of a page one story in The New York Times headlined “Leading Pro-Israeli lobbyist Sees ‘A lot of Value’ in Reagan’s Plan.” The lobbyist he Times quoted was Thomas Dine, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The Times reported that Dien “openly differed with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the Israeli Cabinet which rejected the Reagan plan” and concluded the article by asserting that Dine’s view and that of Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East, who also said that Reagan’s plan “had positive value,” would seem to suggest “that the Begin government cannot count on automatic backing from its traditional supporter in this country in opposing the Reagan plan.”
Dine’s statement in the Times, which was similar to a statement he issued last week in the form of a press release following Reagan’s TV address, noted that there are “many constructive points” in the President’s plan, but added that he had some reservations as well.
Dine said Reagan was not sensitive enough to Israel’s concern about keeping Jerusalem as its capital. In addition, he said he shared Israel’s view that Reagan should have avoided an American preference for a final outcome of the autonomy talks. The key to the President’s plan, Dine stated, would be whether Jordan agreed to join the autonomy talks.
DINE’S STATEMENT SIMILAR TO OTHERS
The thrust of the Times article suggested a division, or at least a rift, within the leadership of the American Jewish community over Reagan’s plan. In fact, most leaders of major Jewish organizations gave the President’s proposals what amounted to critical support.
The views expressed by Dine and Boschwitz were similar to that of many other Jewish leaders, including Berman, who stated publicly last week and this week that while there were constructive elements in Reagan’s plan, its thrust was a deviation from the Camp David accords.
Most of the leaders of major Jewish organizations felt that the positive aspects of Reagan’s plan, which they described in ways similar to Berman, was obscured by procedural faults, the most glaring of which was to specify the ultimate status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at this time, before the five-year transition period has begun.
Among those expressing this view were Maynard Wishner, president, American Jewish Committee; Howard Squadron, president, American Jewish Congress; Kenneth Bialkin, national chairman, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; and Jack Spitzer, president, B’nai B’rith.
Among those rejecting Reagan’s plan as inimical to Israel’s security were Rabbi Joseph Sternstein, president, American Zionist Federation; Jacques Torczyner, acting chairman, World Zionist Organization-American Section; and Ivan Novick, president, Zionist Organization of American.
SAYS REAGAN IS PRE-EMPTING NEGOTIATIONS
Berman, in his letter to Reagan, pointed out that proposing its own solution to the Israeli-Arab dispute, the Administration was “pre-empting the very negotiations called for in the Camp David accords. Moreover, it would appear that it seeks to dispose of these questions now, prior to the five-year transition period required under the accords.”
The letter added that the transition period “was clearly contemplated as a time during which Israelis and Palestinians would be able to work out… a way of living together that would serve to create a hormanious relationship on the basis of which a final autonomy could be agreed upon. Such a building-block approach, if it is to have lasting value in the peace process, cannot be telescoped into the quick-fix remedy suggested by your proposal.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.