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April 11, 1986 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-04-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

19

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Israeli government to restrict the Mormons
in Jerusalem— as Christians, Jerusalem is
also their holy city—would certainly cause
negative political repercussions for Israel
in the United States.
U.S. Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, himself
a Mormon, has implored Israeli Prime Min-
ister Shimon Peres to "make sure the Mor-
mon Center is completed without delay."
Furthermore, the U.S. government,
which safeguards the religious freedom of
all its citizens, would almost certainly look
askance at any noticeably different be-
havior on the part of the Israeli govern-
ment.
Finally, the Israeli government must con-
sider the various constituencies within its
own coalitions. Because of its unique par-
liamentary system, the Israeli government
relies heavily on the patronage of relatively
small "religious parties" — precisely the
groups which most vigorously oppose the
Mormon project.
The Agudat Israel religious party intro-
duced a "no confidence vote" recently in
the Knesset over the continuing construc-
tion of the Mormon Center (which was
easily defeated), and several other religious
parties have hinted that their further sup:
port for either of the two major parties
(Labor and Likud) would be contingent
upon that party's demand to stop construc-
tion of the Mormon Center. Although the
present government has established a spe-
cial commission to "keep an eye on" the
progress of the Mormon Center (which is
at least a year away from completion), such
a move seems primarily to be an effort to
placate those opposed to the Mormon
project.
What has become clear is that it is al-
most, certainly too late to abort the Mor-
mon project or even to move it to another,
less "threatening" location. (The Mormons
have refused all such offers.) Despite a near-
total consensus among Israelis that the
government made a mistake in first grant
ing the Mormons a campus so close to He-
brew University, most Israelis, according
to Wolf Blitzer of the Jerusalem Post,
"agree that Israel . . . would be making an
even greater blunder if it now killed the
Washington's Mormon temple, used for
Mormon project."
ceremonial purposes and not accessible to
Mounting support for the Mormons, par-
the public, is reminiscent of the great
ticularly among American politicians, leads
Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City; very .
one to believe that any Israeli attempt to •
different in style from the study center in
stop the project would constitute a grave
Jerusalem.
risk in terms of Israel's image and its con-
muster to support our claims [to Jeru-
tinued support from abroad. Such a scen-
salem]."
ario, according to one noted Israeli analyst,
In the foregoing assessment, Goell hints
"would make the Pollard affair look like
at the second major Concern of the Israeli
child's play." One certainly hopes not.
government: continued support from
Whether any reasonable solution can be
abroad, namely from the United States
reached between the opposing camps re-
government. Though they only comprise
mains to be seen. But unless both sides can
three percent of the total population, the
somehow come to a common understand-
Mormons constitute a powerful political
ing, the issue of the Mormon Center in
and economic force in America. (Several
Jerusalem is likely to be an issue which will
commentators have noted the parallels to
haunt the Israeli political scene for years
American Jewish power.)
to come. 0
Thus, any attempt on the part of the

group, the "Kingdom of Israel" will be
established only with the coming of the
messianic age.)
Of all the parties involved in the conflict,
the Israeli government is responsible for
any final decisions concerning the Mormon
Center. Thus, it is the Israeli government
which must weigh the claims of the com-
peting interests (the Mormons, their oppo-
nents, the Jerusalem power structure, and
Israel's allies abroad), keeping in mind the
national interests of the State.
First of all, the Israeli government is in-
terested in Israel's image abroad. As the
only self-proclaimed western-style demo-
cracy in the Middle East, the Israeli gov-
ernment is concerned with what might ap-
pear to be a violation of religious freedom
on the part of the Mormons.
While such religious freedom may or may
not be an "essential feature" of all demo-
cracies, Israelis, and Jerusalemites in par-
ticular, pride themselves on their long trad-
ition of religious tolerance. As Yosef Goell
explains: "In our 37-year-old struggle to im-
press the fact of Israel's presence in Jeru-
salem, one of the most effective arguments
has been Israel's proven record of respec-
ting the rights . . . of other religions who
also regard Jerusalem as their holy city ...
The issue of Jerusalem [whether it is part
of Israel or not] is far from being a dead
issue in world politics. There may come a
time when we will need every friend we can

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