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March 16, 1990 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-16

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Strained Relations Expected
Between U.S. Jews And Israel


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FRIDAY. MARCH 16. 1990

Special to The Jewish News


o matter what direc-
tion the political
crisis in Israel now
takes, some difficult times
lie ahead for organized
American Jewry.
A vote to dissolve the
Likud-Labor unity govern-
ment was a distinct possibil-
ity yesterday (March 15) in
the wake of Premier Yitzhak
Shamir's firing earlier in the
week of Vice Premier
Shimon Peres, triggering
the collective resignation of
all other Labor Party min-
Jewish organizations, es-
pecially those that claim to
speak for large segments of
American Jewry, will find it
increasingly difficult to sit
quietly on the sidelines as
the political cauldron boils
over in Israel.
One set of problems could
arise, for example, if Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir
succeeds in setting up a
narrow coalition to replace
the broad-based unity
government. This narrow
grouping would be composed
of the Likud, the religious
parties and several far-right
political bodies.
Such a government would
be based on a resounding re-
jection of Secretary of State
Baker's proposal for
preliminary talks in Cairo
between Israel and a Pales-
tinian delegation.
Since the Bush ad-
ministration already has
demonstrated its impatience
with Shamir's lack of en-
thusiasm for the Baker plan,
one could expect even
greater administration
hostility toward an Israeli
government united by its
opposition to the proposed
Cairo talks.
In such a scenario, the
fragile consensus that has
held for the past year among
organized American Jewry
would quickly break down.
Since last spring, when
Shamir presented his plan
for elections in the ad-
ministered territories, the
bodies that claim to speak
for organized American
Jewry have given Shamir
the benefit of the doubt.
The Conference of Presi-
dents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, the
National Jewish Commun-

Charles Hoffman, a veteran
journalist, writes from Israel.

ity Relations Advisory
Council and the American
Israel Public Affairs Com-
mittee have all stressed that
Shamir's plan represents a
sincere effort to reach an ac-
commodation with the Pa-
lestinians and should be
given American support.
The establishment of a
narrow government led by
Shamir would probably pull
the rug out from under this
consensus. It would be very
difficult for organized
American Jewry to continue
to argue with a united voice
that Shamir is sincere in his
desire for a settlement with
the Palestinians.
Moreover, if the leaders of
organized American Jewry
sided openly with Shamir,
they would quickly find
themselves in a messy con-
frontation with the Bush
Some major American
Jewish groups have been
skeptical of Shamir's
sincerity from the outset,
but have suppressed open
expression of their doubts in
order to maintain a united
These groups, including
the American Jewish Con-

Yitzhak Shamir:
Narrow coalition?

gress, the American Jewish
Committee, and the Reform
and Conservative
movements, might make
their reservations public if
Shamir were to emerge at
the head of a narrow coali-
tion that would be blamed
for stonewalling on the
peace process.
Another possible scenario
would be for Labor Party
leader Shimon Peres to form
a narrow coalition govern-
ment based on Labor, the re-
ligious parties and several
small left-wing parties. Such
a government, which would
no doubt accept the Baker
plan, would gain the immed-

iate support of the Bush ad-
It also would be consonant
with the political leanings of
many American Jewish
leaders, if a recent survey

Shimon Peres:
Raise misgivings?

conducted by sociologist
Steven Cohen is accurate in
its conclusion that most
American Jewish leaders
hold "dovish" views on the
Arab-Israeli conflict.
Yet the price that Peres
would have to pay the re-
ligious parties for their par-
ticipation in his coalition
might raise serious misgiv-
ings among many American
In addition to their usual
demands for key Cabinet
posts and for increased fun-
ding of Orthodox institu-
tions, the religious parties
are expected to raise the
"Who Is a Jew" issue in one
form or another.
This would again inflame
Israel-Diaspora relations as
happened in late 1988.
American Jewish leaders
would then face a harsh
dilemma: They would be
asked to support a narrow
coalition sincerely corn-
mitted to the peace process,
but' which is prepared to
make a major concession to (
the ultra-Orthodox on "Who
Is a Jew."
Of course, demands from
the religious parties on
"Who is a Jew" would not be
aimed only at Peres. Shamir
also would find himself
under intense pressure to
yield to the religious parties
on this issue, in order to
muster a parliamentary
majority for his narrow co-
If Shamir were to give in
on "Who Is a Jew," this
would create a worst-case

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