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Consul General in New York Ends Term of Three ‘intensive’ Years

August 8, 1988
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When Moshe Yegar assumed his post as Israel’s consul general in New York in the summer of 1985, he believed he would be able to concentrate on cultural activities to promote Israel’s cause.

“The time was right after the Lebanon was and I assumed that, as after any other Mideast war, several ‘quiet’ years were lying ahead,” Yegar recalled in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“But I was wrong,” he said, puffing on a cigar at his office at the Israeli Consulate.

“These were an intensive, very intensive three years,” the 57-year-old envoy said, when asked to summarize his term in office, which will conclude at the end of this summer.

Using the word “intensive” was, apparently, Yegar’s diplomatic way of saying “stormy,” since the last three years were marked, in Yegar’s own words, by “major crises,” most notably the Jonathan Pollard spy affair and the continued Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The case of Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying on behalf of Israel, and the riots in the territories, which began last Dec. 9, refocused attention on the special and delicate ties between the United States and Israel, and on the sensitive and unique relations between American Jews and Israel.


Yegar, a career diplomat who joined the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry in 1956, admits that the Palestinian “intifada” and, to a lesser degree, the Pollard affair have been controversial and have brought about criticism of Israel from some American Jews.

“But criticism of Israel and its policies from American Jews is not something new,” Yegar asserted. “Differences of opinion always existed. Sometimes more and sometimes less.”

He pointed out that American Jewish leaders “had a major disagreement with David Ben-Gurion on the issue of aliyah, since Ben-Gurion claimed that being a Zionist means living in Israel.”

Yegar observed that American Jewry is not a monolithic group. “At times of tension and crisis,” he said, “the difference within the community start to surface.”

As for criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories in the last year, Yegar said: “To the best of my knowledge, the overwhelming majority of the Jews in America support the State of Israel as she is, regardless of the different political factions in the government.

“I also believe that those Jewish leaders who support only a particular political view in Israel are a minority,” he said. “I have good reasons to assume that they do not even represent the organizations on whose behalf they speak.”

Yegar declined to name any of these leaders, but he was apparently referring to those Jews who advocate a territorial compromise with the Palestinians and who are critical of Israel’s tough measures in dealing with the uprising.

Yegar, however, was quick to add: “I think, nonetheless, that everybody has the right to criticize. Israel is an open, democratic society and so is the American Jewish community.

“But those who criticize should be aware that criticism can go both ways,” he said. “Israeli citizens, too, can criticize American Jewry and find fault in negative developments among American Jewry, like assimilation, the lack of Jewish education or the absence of aliyah among Jews here.

“American Jewish leaders must realize when criticism against Israel turns into anti-Israel propaganda, that weakens the entire Jewish state,” the outgoing consul general continued. “I am not going to name names, but I was very disturbed to read in newspapers that several prominent Jews urged the administration to cut aid to Israel to pressure it to change its policies in the territories.”


Asked to define the line between criticism and “anti-Israel propaganda,” the Israeli envoy said: “The limit of criticism is where it begins to harm Israel and weaken her. Everyone must be his own judge and set his or her own limits.”

But, Yegar stressed, “the national interests of Israel will be decided only by Israeli citizens. Those Jews who want to take part in the decision-making process are more than welcome to come on aliyah and participate in the democratic process of Israel. You cannot influence by remote control,” the consul said.

Yegar’s diplomatic posting in New York was not his first in America. He previously served for three years as consul of Israel in Los Angeles (1966-69) and for three years as consul general in Philadelphia (1969-72).

“I feel today, in the summer of 1988, the same warmth and solidarity of American Jews with Israel as I felt in the summer of 1966 in Los Angeles,” Yegar said. He said that he never found the same feeling of warmth and friendship toward him as representative of Israel in any other country in the world where he had served.

“The support and solidarity of American Jews with Israel is a special 20th century phenomenon,” he remarked. “I do not believe it will ever disappear.”

Yegar, who is scheduled to assume the post of Israel’s ambassador to Sweden this fall, said he cannot explain the fact that American Jewish tourism to Israel has declined dramatically since the beginning of the uprising.


“Maybe it can be attributed to fear or, with some Jews, to protest over the continued uprising and Israel’s handling of the situation. But I think that there are deeper reasons,” Yegar said.

“At least 60 percent of American Jews have never visited Israel,” he noted. “This is puzzling considering their general support and love of Israel. I think that had they more Jewish conscience and historical knowledge of their origins, they would have come in greater numbers to Israel.”

Yegar, who was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel with his family as a child, said that the serving in the largest Jewish community in the world at the time of Israel’s 40th anniversary has enriched his service here.

He said that the cultural events of the last year, sponsored jointly by the consulate and the American Jewish community, have helped “strengthen Israel’s positive image in America at a time when it was most needed” because of the uprising in the territories.

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