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May 23, 2003 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-05-23

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


A Ready Partner?

yen in the wake of the
release of the Middle East
road map, a release timed to
coincide with the recent
appointment of Palestinian Prime
Minister Mahmoud Abbas, some
observers are expressing reservations
over the prospects of its success. They
are voicing questions about both
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's
willingness to fulfill provisions in the
plan and Abbas' ability to do so.
The road map was proposed by the
Quartet (the U.S., Russia, the
European Union and the United
Nations) as a way to bring Israel and
the Palestinians into a productive
peace process.
Just one day after Abbas officially
took office last month, Palestinian ter-
rorist groups, the Fatah's Tanzim —
closely aligned with Yasser Arafat —
and Hamas, jointly planned a suicide
attack on a Tel Aviv pub, just steps away
from the American embassy, which
killed three civilians and injured 60.
And the carnage continued this past
week with several shootings and homi-


Allan Gale is associate director of the

Bloomfield Township-based Jewish
Community Council of Metropolitan

tide bombings. Israeli Defense Minister
Shaul Mofaz recently said that there has
been a significant rise in the efforts of
the terror organizations to perpetrate
attacks in an attempt to hinder the
Abbas government and the peace
process. Palestinian rejectionists seem
more determined than ever to shed
Israeli civilian blood and prevent peace.
If, and it seems a big "if" at this
writing, the Palestinian leadership can
halt the violence, what will be Prime
Minister Sharon's response? A discus-
sion of whether Sharon and his right-
wing coalition will be prepared to take
necessary measures to restore a sense
of confidence in peacemaking must be
tempered by the reality that Israel is a
democracy. It will be the Israeli people
who ultimately determine whether
Abbas can be trusted and whether
Sharon can cut a deal they will sup-
port. If they do conclude that, in fact,
Abbas is a partner, then Sharon will be
expected by the electorate to make the
"painful compromises" for peace about
which he has spoken, or the Israeli
people may choose to elect someone
else who will.
This is because the overwhelming
majority of Israelis are not ideologically
wedded to positions of the right or left.
Much like Americans, they are a prag-

matic people who yearn for
can influence Israeli prime
both peace and security. It is
ministers is Egypt's Anwar
this majority that determines
Sadat and Menachem Begin.
who sits in the prime minister's
Sadat's courageous visit to
office in Jerusalem. It explains
Jerusalem in 1977 and pledge
the center left - center right
to end the bloodshed trans-
rotation that characterized
formed Israeli public opinion
Israeli politics in the 1990s —
literally overnight.
from hawkish Yitzhak Shamir
From the intransigent Arab
to dovish Yitzhak Rabin and
leader who just four years ear-
Shimon Peres; from Benjamin
lier had launched a surprise
Netanyahu to Ehud Barak,
attack on Yom Kippur, the
who made an unprecedented
holiest day in the year for
peace offer of Palestinian statehood to
Jews, resulting in the death of thou-
Palestinian Authority President Yasser
sands of Israeli soldiers, Sadat became
Arafat at Camp David and Taba —
a hero on the streets of Israeli cities.
and then, following the outbreak of
Begin recognized that a new political
Palestinian violencethat continues to
reality had been created, one that
this day, to Sharon.
required painful concessions in
When Israelis perceived a real
exchange for an end to hostilities,
Palestinian partner for peace, they
including the dismantling of Yamit
elected a prime minister who would
and other Jewish communities that
respond generously to the opportunity. had been built in the Sinai following
When Israelis see no real Palestinian
the 1967 War.
partner for peace, they elect a prime
While hope soared in 1993 that
minister who will focus primarily on
Arafat might be another Sadat, that is,
security. And incumbent prime minis-
an Arab leader willing to confront his-
ters act accordingly.
tory, the truth, sadly, was otherwise.
There was no real strategic decision by
Palestinian leadership to accept the
Sadat's Influence
legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state,
Of course, the most dramatic example
nor to put an end once and for all to
of how a serious Arab peace partner
GALE on page 36

of Jews who told me that they didn't
feel comfortable with Lieberman's can-
One person said that he was con-
cerned that Lieberman might be unnec-
essarily hard on Israel because he
wouldn't want to appear soft on the
Jewish state. Another said he was glad
George W. Bush was president post-9-
11 because a Jew couldn't be as hard on
Iraq and bin Laden lest he be seen as
favoring Israel.
I was amused by all of this until I
heard from a Lieberman aide that con-
cerns about the Connecticut lawmaker's
Jewishness have been expressed nation-
wide — and only by Jews.
This was bound to happen. The glass
ceiling that has for so long hovered over
the heads of the Jewish community
now has Jews questioning whether a
serious Jewish presidential candidate is
really worth arousing the anti-Semites.
But that assumes there is one Jewish
point of view — and that's nonsense.
Certainly being Jewish would inform
and mold Lieberman's behavior as pres-

ident, but ultimately he would
Jews have arrived at a place
do what is consistent with his
within American society where
political philosophy.
we feel equal on all counts —
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, presi-
economically, socially and
dent of the Jewish Life
Network, is troubled by this
But there still is a segment of
Jewish ambivalence to power
the Jewish community that
because "it expresses a fear that
appears to be afraid of this
at a time of heightened anti-
inalienable right. These Jews,
Semitism Jews should not be
says Rabbi Greenberg, "in time
too visible."
will only hand a victory to
Rabbi Greenberg's point chal-
Commentary anti-Semitism. One cannot
lenges the notion that if we are
hide or evade responsibility at
fearful then we should be quiet.
this point of history. On the
"For me," Rabbi Greenberg says, "the
other hand, if we act — as everyone
Lieberman candidacy is proof that Jews
else — like we are entitled to compete
have come of age, that we are capable
for power and to be visible, then we
of taking our fate into our own hands."
will truly overcome the last residues of
Adds Alan Abramowitz, a political
science professor at Emory University
If you don't like Joe Lieberman's
in Atlanta: "The fact that Jews do not
stand on the issues, the mature thing to
automatically support a candidate
do is find someone who better reflects
because he happens to be Jewish is a
your views. But to reject Lieberman's
reflection of the political maturity and
presidential bid because he is Jewish
self-confidence of American Jews."
and that makes you feel uncomfortable
How about that? Political maturity.
as a Jew? That would be ... well ...
What a great concept. It suggests that

The Glass Ceiling

ity .S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman
was in Atlanta the other day
to raise money and support
for his presidential quest.
Since his stint as the Democrats' vice-
presidential nominee in the oh-so-close
contest of 2000, Lieberman has become
a national fixture in the political world.
And his latest effort has been met with
welcoming applause — everywhere but
in the Jewish community.
While many Jews have expressed sup-
port for Lieberman, still many are trou-
bled either by his level of religious
observance, his political stands and/or
the perception that his candidacy, dare I
say presidency, might act as a conductor
of anti-Semitism.
I made a number of calls on
Lieberman's behalf for a fund-raiser
here and was surprised by the number

Steve Berman of Atlanta serves on the

boards of New Atlanta Jewish High
School and the America-Israel Chamber
of Commerce.



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