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Israeli Government Is Concerned About American Jewish Opposition to Gaza Withdrawal Plan

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
July - August 2005

In July, in a conference call with leaders of American Jewish organizations, Israel’s minister of construction, Yitzhak Herzog, urged American Jews not to assist Israeli opponents of the Gaza withdrawal plan and to show “unequivocal support” for the pullout.  

In an interview with The Forward (July 15, 2005), Herzog said:”There are quite a few in America who assist these (anti-disengagement) militant groups.” He added that American Jews should resist calls to offer financial support to the “very strong nucleus within the settler’s camp that will do anything possible to derail this process by way of demonstrations or refusal to cooperate or even usage of force.”  

Herzog said that, “I believe there is a very strong right-wing American (Jewish) influence on some of those demonstrators and saboteurs that has gone way beyond what you’d call normal behavior under such circumstances and I wish the American Jewish community would take a stand on that.” He alluded to the civil disobedience campaign of disengagement foes, as well as to an incident in which a group of settlers in Gaza threw rocks at a wounded Palestinian teenager, critically injuring him.  

The Forward reports that, “The first Israeli soldier to be convicted of refusing to carry out orders related to dismantling settlements was Avi Bieber, an Orthodox Jew from Passaic, N.J. ... Herzog’s comments reflect how the escalating hostility between the organized settlers’ movement and the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is spilling over into the American Jewish community. The spillover is particularly evident in the Orthodox community, a large segment of which strongly opposes disengagement.”  

In July, leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which for the past year has urged Jewish organizations to express public support for the disengagement plan, met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said that progress was made toward establishing mechanisms to fight intolerance in the Palestinian community, although the ADL took issue with Abbas’ failure to confront militant armed Palestinian groups. Foxman said that Abbas explained that he wants to “exhaust all the possibilities of dialogue” with the militant groups before he resorts to confronting them by force. “I told Abbas these groups were sticking their fingers in his eye by saying publicly that they don’t want to be a partner to seeking reconciliation,” Foxman said. Abbas replied that he had not given up using words to convince groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to give up violence.  

Foxman said that, despite frustration with current Palestinian efforts, he is convinced that working with Abbas to advance the peace process is an imperative. “We’ve got to keep trying,” he said.  

The ADL has published the results of a poll showing what it describes as a high level of support among Americans for Israel’s disengagement plan. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which opposes the Sharon plan, issued a poll showing that most Americans oppose the plan.  

According to The Forward, “The president of the ZOA, Morton Klein, enlisted three statistics experts who accused the ADL of asking the question in a leading manner that was ‘politically motivated.’ Foxman called the accusation ‘absolute nonsense,’ and said that the question regarding the disengagement was reinforced by other data in the ADL poll and in a series of other recent polls. The ADL poll did not directly question respondents on whether they supported the disengagement plan, instead asking if they viewed it as a ‘bold step for peace.‘ Seventy-one percent said they did.”  

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