Jews and Israel

By Richman, Sheldon | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 30, 1992 | Go to article overview

Jews and Israel


Richman, Sheldon, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


JEWS AND ISRAEL

American Jewish Leaders Put Differing Spin on Rabin Criticism

American Jewish leaders differ among themselves over Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's recent dressing down of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Some pro-Israel activists say Rabin's anger was directed specifically at U.S. Jewish groups that gave unquestioning support to Rabin's Likud political rivals in Israel. Others branded the Israeli prime minister "naive," and predicted he soon would be turning to them for support when the U.S. government starts asking him to make concessions for peace with the Arabs.

The controversy began after The Washington Post reported last Aug. 17 that Rabin "bluntly criticized past actions of [AIPAC], the powerful pro-Israel congressional lobby, saying it had needlessly inflamed U.S.-Israeli relations" over the $10 billion in loan guarantees. The criticism came in a private meeting during Rabin's visit to the United States, but word got out quickly, thanks to an Israeli leak--or so AIPAC people believe.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz said Rabin's remarks were "brutal." "You have hurt Israel," it quoted Rabin as saying. "I will not allow you to conduct my dealings with the administration." Staff writer Larry Cohler of Washington Jewish Week reported that Rabin told the AIPAC leadership, "You failed at everything. You waged lost battles. . .You caused damage to Israel. . .You're too negative. . .You create too much antagonism."

The Aug. 21 issue of Forward predicted that AIPAC "will lose much of its power" if Rabin has his way. But AIPAC was not Rabin's only target. In New York, at the end of his U.S. visit, he told a gathering arranged by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, "We decided in a democratic way what are our priorities. It's we, the Israelis, that will decide about it." Forward said that Rabin delivered these words while looking directly at conference chairwoman Shoshana Cardin. American Jewish leaders were surprised by Rabin's anger.

A Fundamental Change Between Israel and the Jewish Community

Referring to the Conference of Presidents meeting, WJW wrote that "at a public speech before hundreds of Jewish leaders in New York, Rabin left many listeners feeling `blindsided' by his curtness and his insistence that decisions are made in Jerusalem." According to David Harris, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee, the change in the relationship between Israel and the Jewish community will be fundamental. "The American Jewish community certainly saw itself as an important actor in the ebb and flow of U.S.-Israel relations, nurturing its strength, moving it along, advancing it in consultation both in Washington and Jerusalem. Prime Minister Rabin has given a very clear signal he sees things differently."

Rabin's policy apparently went into immediate effect. In September Rabin and White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker III reached an agreement on arms matters, including the sale of F-15 fighters to Saudi Arabia, without AIPAC's (or Congress's) participation. An article by Cohler in Washington Jewish Week reported that the atmosphere at AIPAC's office has been gloomy since Rabin read the lobbying group the riot act. There is concern, Cohler reports, that Rabin's position could hurt AIPAC's fund-raising and reduce its clout with Congress.

It is also reported that AIPAC is trying to rally a defense by planting articles taking its side against Rabin. AIPAC partisans also point out that the lobby was helpful recently on the loan-guarantee issue. …

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