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April 07, 1989 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-04-07

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

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WHAT DO YOU MEAN
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Yitzhak Shamir Visits D.C.:
Is The Honeymoon Over?

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

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34

FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 1989

he high tension build-
up to this week's en-
counter in Washington
between Prime Minister
Shamir and President Bush
has concentrated the collec-
tive Israeli mind as never
before in recent history.
After eight years of Presi-
dent Ronald Reagan's
generous indulgence, Israelis
are now confronting the chil-
ly prospect of an administra-
tion that appears determined
to keep the Jewish state at
arm's length and a Congress
that is increasingly uneasy
about Israeli actions and
reactions.
President George Bush,
anxious to find his way out of
the Reagan shadow and
stamp his own style on inter-
national affairs, might not
necessarily view the world in
two-dimensional, Cold War
terms. Ultimately, the
Israelis believe, pragmatism
will prevail.
Israeli leaders know that
they cannot, because of inter-
nal political constraints,
deliver what President Bush
and Secretary of State Baker
are demanding; that they
cannot rewrite the old uncom-
promising script; that their
options are closing (see box).
They know, too, that
whatever soothing public
gloss the American leaders
may place on the growing rift,
Washington's impatience is
mounting and that the count-
down to a potentially bruising
showdown is underway. The
clock has started to tick.
For the first time in a long
time, Israelis are facing the
specter of total diplomatic
isolation, with the United
States lining up alongside the
Soviet Union — some say as
soon as September — in com-
pelling Israel to attend an in-
ternational peace conference,
even imposing a settlement.
And, perhaps for the first
time ever, they are recogniz-
ing the value of those
American Jews who faithful-
ly, valiantly carry the Israeli
flag through the U.S. political
arena.
Just as Israelis privately
ridiculed what they once
perceived as self-important
posturing by American com-
munal leaders, so they are
now turning to the "Jewish
lobby" to pull their irons out
of the fire.
While their current expec-
tations may be just as

unrealistic — and unfair — as
their past disdain, they are
pinning extravangant hopes
on the ability of American
Jewish leaders to bend those
increasingly resistant
political arms in the White
House, the State Department
and Congress.
One highly public indica-
tion of this desperation was
evident at last month's Con-
ference on Jewish Solidarity
with Israel, when Shamir
summoned Jewish leaders —
and any other warm bodies he
could muster — to
demonstrate their loyalty and
support in Jerusalem.
Israeli- analysts, however,
are skeptical that American
Jews can or will provide the

The constant,
numbing television
pictures of well-
armed Israeli
troops confronting
Palestinian youths
has seriously
eroded sympathy
for the Jewish
state. "The truth is
that Israelis don't
understand the
concept of loving
criticism."

sort of blind, uncritical sup-
port that Shamir appeared to
be seeking.
Indeed, this week's en-
counters in Washington, they
say, could mark a watershed
not only in relations between
Israel and America, but also
between Israel and American
Jewry.
Professor Gabi Sheffer, a
specialist in U.S.-Israeli rela-
tions at the Hebrew Univer-
sity of Jerusalem, does not ex-
pect the eruption of a sudden
crisis between Israel and the
American Jews. "Rather," he
says, "there will be a process
of attrition, of growing
apathy, of people drifting
away. This is the problem."
Dr. Arye Carmon, who heads
the Israel-Diaspora Institute
at Tel Aviv University,
believes that American Jews
have become increasingly
alienated as a result of
Israel's handling of the in-
tifada and its cynical political
manipulation of the Who-is-a-
Jew issue.
American Jewish leaders,
he told me, have signaled
clearly that they want to be

involved: "They support
Israel, they care about Israel,
but they want to see their
values and concerns reflected
in Israeli policy-making."
Israelis, for their part, find
it difficult to invite Diaspora
leaders into a genuine part-
nership: "The truth," said a
senior official in Jerusalem,
"is that Israelis don't unders-
tand the concept of loving
criticism.
"They find it very difficult
to handle dissent from
abroad. They just don't know
how to invite people into effec-
tive involvement.
"Everyone knows that the
Israeli government must
ultimately make its own deci-
sions, but at least there
should be Diaspora input on
the basis of an honest
dialogue. It is simply in-
sulting to treat Diaspora
leaders to something super-
ficial and largely mean-
ingless, such as the solidari-
ty conference."
Israelis now recognize the
extent of the public relations
damage they have sustained
as a consequence of the
16-month-old Palestinian
uprising, which has produced
a stunning role reversal for
the Davids and Goliaths of
the Arab:Israeli contest.
They recognize that the con-
stant, numbing television pic-
tures of well-armed Israeli
troops confronting Palesti-
nian youths has seriously
eroded sympathy for the
Jewish state and raised
troubling questions in the
minds of once-unquestioning
supporters.
Above all, they know that
the cumulative effect of all
this has left Israel exposed,
alienated and, therefore,
dangerously vulnerable.
Israelis draw comfort from
the intricate network of
strategic alliances which
were put in place by the
Reagan administration, but
_ they remain uncertain about
the durability of such pacts in
the face of a potentially
hostile administration.
They would like to believe
that this strategic alliance
translates as American
reliance, and they would like
to believe that this alliance
has been institutionalized
and set in concrete.
At the same time, however,
they recognize that it has not
faced any serious tests; that
the diplomatic, economic and
military carrots contained in
the various memoranda of
agreements could rot.



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