James D. Besser |
It was an almost impossible political challenge: This week Jewish leaders were trying to put a positive spin on increasingly panicky, inconsistent U.S. efforts to end an Israeli-Palestinian crisis that continues to spin out of control.
The pinball policies bounced from the harshest-ever condemnations of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to fierce new pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The difference between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli soldiers was highlighted Wednesday when a suicide bomber targeted civilians aboard a crowded rush-hour bus just hours after 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in Jenin during a house-to-house search for terrorists to minimize civilian casualties.
Saying that Israel has launched a war that pits “terrorism against democracy,” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky called on American Jews this week to use their influence to convince the world to allow Israel to finish the job.
With Islam’s top religious leaders publicly sanctioning suicide bombings against Jews, outraged New York rabbis plan to protest the behavior of their religious counterparts at a demonstration in front of the Palestine Mission next Monday.
Israeli military and police forces were placed on high alert on the eve of Passover for fear of increased Palestinian terrorist attacks with the U.S. peace mission on the verge of collapse and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat prevented from attending this week’s Arab League summit in Beirut.
Israel Radio reported that all army leave was cancelled and all police personnel — especially in Jerusalem — were mobilized in an effort to thwart attacks.
‘It is the closest I have ever come to death,” said Rabbi Henry Weiner of Manhattan. “I become emotional just talking about it.”
Rabbi Weiner and his wife, Rickie, were having lunch at the Kaffit Café in Jerusalem last Thursday when a Palestinian walked past with a knapsack slung over his shoulder.
The rabbi, in Jerusalem for a convention of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, said the man attracted his attention because he was wearing a topcoat on a very hot afternoon.