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October 06, 1995 - Image 35

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-10-06

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

The current warmth in U.S.-Israel rela-
Critics of the government agree.
"My sense is that American Jews are tions, resulting from progress in the peace
feeling more and more frustrated that their process, has been a boost for groups pro-
legitimate concerns are not being ad- moting the pro-Israel agenda.
But the fact that Congress is now
dressed in a serious way by American Jew-
ish leaders or by the Israeli government," hearing regularly from opposition forces
said Morton Klein, president of the Zion- complicates the pro-Israel message and
introduces an element of partisanship in
ist Organization of America.
Klein, who has been active on Capitol what was once a largely non-partisan pro-
Hill in the past year, is a special target Israel effort.
It is no accident that many of the new
of the Israeli government's wrath. "It's just
pro-Israel hard-liners in Congress are con-
wrong to try to silence this debate."
servative Republicans who have been ap-
14. Who are the big winners and losers among proached by opposition forces in the Jewish
Jewish organizations in the wake of Oslo II?
community.
"We do see this additional opposition,"
In a political battle, everybody claims
said Rep. Ben Cardin (D- Md.), an active
victory.
Groups like Americans for
Peace Now and Project Nish-
ma have gained credibility by
keeping faith with the Rabin
government at a time when
many Jewish groups couldn't
see past the images of the bad
old days.
But those same groups have
lagged in efforts to educate the
American public about the
long-term necessity of the
peace process, according to
some Israeli officials; the new
interim agreement, they say,
will put the pro-peace process
groups to the test as difficul-
ties in implementation
emerge.
Broad-based pro-Israel
groups like AIPAC have been
under enormous pressure from
the Israeli government to be
more vigorous in generating
support for the peace process.
But the same deepening di-
visions in the broader Jewish
community will continue to
make it difficult for AIPAC to
stake out clear positions on key
peace process issues. Without
consensus in their own lead-
ership ranks, AIPAC has to
hedge.
AIPAC's quick distribution
of extensive educational ma-
terials on Oslo II, therefore,
represents a victory for the
pro-peace process faction in the
organization.
Bill Clinton, Yassir Arafat and Hosni Mubarak after the ceremony.

15. Does the Oslo II agreement
help or hurt opposition groups?
Both. Last week's agreement may have
further marginalized the groups adamant-
ly opposed to the peace process. After all,
their best efforts did not prevent an agree-
ment they regard as suicidal.
But they don't much care about their
marginalization. Theirs is a crusade led
by True Believers, to whom last week's
agreement was just one more proof of a
world gone crazy.
So they will lose in the broader Ameri-
can Jewish context — but win in terms of
the growing fervor of their own troops.
And if Yassir Arafat fulfills his promises
in the next few months, the right's mar-
ginalization will increase. If he reverts to
his bloodthirsty rhetoric and obstructive
ways, they will look like prophets.

16. Just how endangered is Jewish political
muscle in Washington as the growing peace
process debate spills out across Capitol Hill?

Most Jewish leaders believe that pro-
Israel power in the Capitol remains strong.

supporter of the peace process. "And it
does, to a certain degree, make it harder
for the government of Israel to pursue its
major focus. I don't know if it will have any
impact on the policy of our country; I still
believe that what the (Israeli) government
desires will be respected by most members
of Congress, who are very supportive of
the peace process."

Pro-peace process groups, he said, are
aware that the implementation of Oslo
II will be tricky.
"This is going to be a difficult period,"
he said. "What peace process supporters
have to do is out-work, out-hustle and out-
lobby the opposition, and help restore a
sense of where the broader consensus lies
— which is support for the peace process,
although with concerns. We're all whip-
sawed between our hopes and our fears."

18. Doesn't the opposition also claim to repre-
sent a "silent majority"?
Of course. And they predict this quiet
group will be galvanized to speak out by
what they predict will be a disastrous, vi-

olent implementation process.
So in a sense, it will be Yassir Arafat's
performance that determines the balance
in the pro-Israel community.

19. How are Arab-Americans reacting to last
week's interim agreement, and how will that
affect their relationship with the Jewish com-
munity?
Much the same as Jewish groups: with
17. Will this interim agreement inspire peace cautious approval and a minority ex-
process supporters to be more vocal? In the last pressing hard-and-fast opposition.
"There's no elation, but there's wide-
two years, we have heard the most from the
spread support," said James Zogby, execu-
opponents.
Leaders of these groups voice an em- tive director of the Arab-American
Institute and a peace process supporter.
phatic "yes."
"For many, this peace process repre- "For us, everything depends on imple-
sents Israel's best hope for a secure future," mentation — as it does in the Jewish com-
said NJCRAC's Larry Rubin. "It is not un- munity."
The Oslo II agreement, he said, "pre-
reasonable to say that this new agreement
could galvanize the silent Jewish majority sents opponents with big targets and op-
that supports what the Israeli government portunities."
At the same time, he expressed awe at
is doing. This is the time for us to create a
better balance in a public debate that — the tenacity of the peace process, and at
to this point — has been weighted in fa- the deepening relationships between Arab-
American and Jewish activists.
vor of the opposition."

But the expected problems in imple-
mentation, he said, mean that Arab-Amer-
ican leaders — like their Jewish
counterparts — will have to be much more
aggressive in selling the peace process.
"Those of us who want to see this work
will have to remind people: the issue here
isn't whether the glass is half-empty or
half-full, but the fact that there is a glass
at all."

20. As the peace process gets down to the
toughest issues, how can Jews avoid a fratri-
cidal war over Israel's policies?
"The closer we get to peace, the sharper
will be the differences between Jews," said
Abraham Foxman, national director of the

Anti-Defamation League. Foxman recently
resigned from his longtime shul in New
Jersey — because of what he saw as the
rabbi's venomous criticisms of the Israeli
leadership. "It's incumbent on those who
support the peace process to be little more
passionate, more outspoken, in making
leaders here understand that an over-
whelming majority of Americans do sup-
port what is happening."
Jewish leaders, regardless of their po-
sition on the peace process, must confront
those who speak with a divisive harshness,
he said.
And much will depend on Rabin's "will-
ingness to communicate where he's going,
what risks he's willing to take, and where
he has drawn the red lines," he said.
Religious leaders have to be careful
about portraying political positions on the
negotiations as religious imperatives.
And pro-peace process groups need to
understand that the opposition is voic-
ing concerns that do need to be addressed;
dismissing their objections outright only
increases the gulf between Jews. EJ

35

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