Lack Of Support
Jewish groups back away from supporting Bush .on Iraq.
JAMES D. BESSER
C ongressional Republicans and the Bush
administration are intensifying
for help in passing a strong resolution
authorizing the use of force against Iraq's
Saddam Hussein, but Jewish groups are not rushing to
Last week, the board of the Jewish Council for
Public Affairs (JCPA), representing 123 local com-
munity relations groups and 13 national agencies,
tabled a motion calling for support for the adminis-
The JCPA resolution was sponsored by B'nai
B'rith, which this week came out with its own strong
statement supporting a war powers resolution.
In a letter to President Bush, B'nai B'rith
President Joel S. Kaplan wrote that "we certainly
hope all members of Congress will put aside their
differences and support your proposal — doing
what is best for the country."
But that unequivocal approach did not sell to the
diverse JCPA leadership, which voted to table the
resolution "by an overwhelming margin," according
to long-time JCPA leader Ted Mann — who sup-
ported the tough resolution.
Contrary to some reports of widespread support
for unilateral U.S. action, Mann said that "the
Jewish community is where the rest of the nation
seems to be. In reality, opinion is very diverse. I had
the sense that you don't have a vast majority who are
convinced that Saddam Hussein represents the kind
of immediate danger that others say he does."
JCPA will take up the Iraq question again at its
Oct. 14 board meeting. Mann, who supports pre-
emptive U.S. action, said that he expects it will be
Pro-Israel activists were pleased that Congress has
passed a long-delayed State Department authoriza- -
tion bill that includes provisions reaffirming
Jerusalem's status as Israel's capital and an early ver-
sion of a law threatening sanctions on Yasser Arafat
if Palestinian terrorism continues.
But they aren't celebrating, mostly because
President Bush has already announced that he will
not abide by provisions he regards as an encroach-
ment on presidential prerogatives.
On Sept. 26, the House gave final approval to a
bill authorizing $8.6 billion in State Department
spending. The legislation includes language requir-
ing the State Department to list Israel as the country
of origin on passports, birth certificates and other
official documents for U.S. citizens born in
Jerusalem, and to cite Jerusalem as Israel's capital
wherever it lists countries and their capitals.
barring entry to P.A. officials and putting the PLO on
the official State Department list of terrorist groups.
But MEPCA, authored by Rep. Gary Ackerman,
D-N.Y., has been largely superceded by the tougher
"Arafat Accountability Act."
"MEPCA says that sanctions can be imposed if
the president determines the Palestinians are not in
compliance," said a pro-Israel lobbyist. "The Arafat
Accountability Act assumes non-compliance, which
is certainly a more realistic approach."
And an even harsher resolution laying out condi-
tions for U.S. acceptance of a Palestinian state is in
the works, although there is little chance of passage
Still, Ackerman said Congress is making progress
in dealing with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"With this legislation, we are finally closing the gap
between all our tough talk about terrorism and the
reality of our heedless engagement with the
Palestinians, no matter how deeply enmeshed in ter-
ror they are," he said.
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Those provisions have languished in Congress
since the mid-1990s.
Another provision reaffirms the Congressional
demand that the president take immediate action to
start the move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to
The 1995, Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act
required the move by May 31, 1999, but Bush and
President Bill Clinton routinely exercised the law's
On Monday, President Bush issued a statement
saying that he would not veto the bill, but that he
regarded the controversial provisions as "advisory,
The Jerusalem provision, he said, "impermissibly
interferes with the president's constitutional authori-
ty to conduct the nation's foreign affairs."
A top Jewish leader declined to criticize the
administration action on the embassy move.
"The president has promised to do it; it's a question
of timing," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-
chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations. "We've been disap-
pointed all along that it hasn't happened but, hopeful-
ly, as events change, it will become feasible to do it.".
The administration also objects to amendments
withholding $10 million in economic aid to Lebanon
because of its support for Hezbollah terrorists.
The measure also includes the Middle East Peace
Commitments Act (MEPCA), which threatens sanc-
tions on the Palestinian Authority if it does not live
up to agreements with Israel. Among the possible
sanctions: closing the PLO offices in Washington,
With U.S.-Israel relations strained over the abortive
Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah,
Israel could get a political boost from next week's big
"solidarity rally" by Evangelical Christians :
But Jewish and Israeli officials have reacted warily
— in part because of concern that the event outside
the White House could include harsh criticism of
the Bush administration's Mideast policies.
An Israeli official said only that "we know about"
the march. "It would be inaccurate to say we are urg-
ing people to attend or are officially supporting it."
Michael Brown, national church liaison for the
Christian Coalition, said he "can understand the
hesitation" of some Jewish leaders to support evan-
gelical pro-Israel activities. "But I really -believe they
will be able to see, as time passes, that this isn't any-
thing but an expression of the- love for Israel and the
He also rejected the charge that many participants
support Israel mostly because of the grim role many
Christians expect it to play in "end-time" events
prophesied in the Christian Bible.
The Oct. 11 rally is part of the Christian
Coalition's biennial "Road to Victory" conference,
the highest-profile political gathering of Christian
The conference is being co-sponsored by Joyce
Meyer Ministries. Ms. Meyer recently keynoted a
"leadership conference" of Christian evangelists in
Israel, including "Messianic Jews."
Speakers at the rally will include Christian Coalition
founder Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Israel will be represented by Jerusalem Mayor
Ehud Olmert and, via satellite, former Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Planners say they
expect to be addressed by Prime Minster Ariel
Sharon, but officials at the Israeli embassy say they
have no information about Sharon's involvement.
So far, the only Jewish leader listed as a speaker is
Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the conservative group
Brown, the Christian Coalition leader, said one
goal of the rally is to end U.S. pressure on Israel. ❑