Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jews and Israel

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Jews and Israel

Article excerpt


U.S. Jews Welcome Rabin Victory

Most Jewish American leaders rejoiced at the victory of the Labor Party and Yitzhak Rabin over the Likud and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, wrote to The New York Times that "the stunning victory by the Labor Party should be understood as a reaffirmation by Israelis of their genuine commitment to the peace process and a rejection of narrow ideological goals." He suggested that Shamir's post-election statement that he had intended to stall the peace process for 10 years should cause American Jews who were critical of the Bush administration to reconsider.

"In Yitzhak Rabin," Siegman wrote, "the Israelis have a leader who will not always agree with the United States. But he is a man of candor both committed to speedy resolution of Israel's differences with the Palestinians and with its Arab neighbors, and determined not to compromise Israel's security.

"The Bush administration," Siegman continued, "has a golden opportunity to reaffirm the solidity of its support for Israel by acting promptly to make available to Israel's new government the loan guarantees Israel so desperately needs to absorb nearly half a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Mr. Rabin's unambiguous commitment to put an immediate end to political settlements assures the integrity of Israel's role in the peace negotiations."

Thomas R. Smerling, executive director of Project Nishma, said the Labor victory brought "an immense, audible sigh of relief in almost the entire American Jewish community. Because Rabin supports the principle of territorial compromise, the chances for a solution to the conflict go from almost inconceivable to very difficult. He is a tough, pragmatic military man who will give no unnecessary ground to the Arabs and won't compromise on Israel's security issues, but lacks the ideologically rigid commitment of Shamir to Eretz Israel."

Hyman Bookbinder of the American Jewish Committee said, "Rabin's promise of an autonomy agreement with the Palestinians within nine months is one of the best things to come out of the election."

Stuart Eizenstat, who served as a domestic adviser to President Jimmy Carter, expects better U.S.-Israeli relations. "Because of [Rabin's] settlements policy," Eizenstat said, "there is no question about the loan guarantees now. They'll go through."

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), through its executive director Thomas A. Dine, also expressed optimism. "With the Israeli election...U.S.-Israel relations are already reinvigorated, and I expect over the next several months to see the relationship further strengthened and broadened."

About the time Dine was saying that, the Israeli Labor-linked newspaper Davar was calling for his resignation. According to the Forward, the wing of the party headed by Shimon Peres has been critical of AIPAC for its perceived support of Likud. Peres has apparently not forgiven AIPAC for its alleged interference in a 1985 agreement between Peres, then prime minister, and Jordan regarding a U.S. arms sale to Jordan. Shamir opposed the arms deal. In addition, the Forward reported that a top Jewish American leader said that Rabin holds a grudge against AIPAC for interfering in a 1986 arms agreement he worked out with the Reagan administration.

Dine is not the only Jewish American leader whose ouster is being sought by an Israeli newspaper. Ha'aretz, another liberal daily, called for the resignation of Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. …

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