James Besser |
The eruption of violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel that began with last week’s Temple Mount tour by Likud leader Ariel Sharon could widen bitter divisions over the Middle East peace process among American Jews.
That is the assessment of several Jewish leaders, who warned that the worst fighting since the intifada could inflame passions and harden positions on both sides of the debate.
As Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat raced from Paris to Egypt this week seeking to negotiate an end to a week of violence that claimed at least 60 lives — including five Jews — pessimism grew that any eventual peace treaty they hammer out would be acceptable to Israeli Jews.
Naomi Blumenthal, chairman of World Likud, said the rioting signaled that the Palestinian people “don’t want peace. We know it now, and most Israelis are very disappointed.”
In a bid to assuage critics of Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s civil reforms, the minister in charge of religious-secular issues has proposed his own sweeping proposals. But observers believe Barak’s proposals are nothing but campaign gimmicks that will never be realized.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak continued to voice hope this week of a last-minute peace treaty with Palestinian President Yasir Arafat, even as he outlined to New Yorkers his political platform should he be forced into early elections.
Shortly before leaving for Israel to try to put his political house in order, Barak told nearly 400 invited guests at UJA-Federation headquarters in Manhattan that within the next five weeks he will know whether a peace treaty is in the offing, “even if it takes months to work it out.”
As Israeli leaders waited for Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to signal an easing of his uncompromising position on Jerusalem, they were pessimistic that it would come in his talks here this week with President Bill Clinton.
For years, the government of Israel has resisted calls by Conservative and Reform Jews to end the Orthodox monopoly on all religious issues in Israel. This week, Prime Minister Ehud Barak became their biggest champion.