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Jewish Leaders, Secretary Rice, Meet on Middle East

agudah1.jpgRepresentatives of a number of American Jewish organizations met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department this past Thursday on the topic of the Administration’s new foray into helping spur Middle East peace.

According to Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, who attended the meeting on behalf of Agudath Israel of America, one of the major points of discussion was the issue of Yerushalayim. Secretary Rice said that she “understands the importance of Jerusalem psychologically, emotionally and practically,” and that everybody recognized that this would be one of the most difficult issues to resolve. She emphasized, though, that America was extremely focused on proper security assurances for Israel, especially in light of their recognition that any new Palestinian state would likely be a weak entity for the immediately foreseeable future.

At the meeting, Rabbi Zwiebel also raised the problem of the ongoing incitement to anti-Semitism in the Arab/Palestinian media and educational systems, which the Secretary acknowledged was a very serious concern.

Thursday’s meeting was the second in recent days to take place between Bush Administration officials and Jewish leaders. The previous Monday, November 26, shortly before the official dinner hosted by the White House to welcome participants in the Annapolis Middle-East meeting, National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley and other high-ranking Bush Administration officials sat down for a meeting of their own with a group of American Jewish and Christian leaders concerned about the potential direction of the Annapolis conference.

According to Rabbi Zwiebel, who was one of the participants in that meeting as well, the community representatives raised a variety of questions regarding both the details of the “peace process” – particularly the stated determination to proceed immediately to “final status” negotiations that could lead to the relinquishment of parts of Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty – and America’s role in the process.

In opening remarks, Mr. Hadley, as Ms. Rice would do later that week, assured the group that the American government had not pressured the parties to enter such negotiations, and that in fact the parties themselves had initiated the idea of pushing forward with final status negotiations at this time.  he said, and in fact the negotiations would be strictly between the parties themselves with the U.S. simply acting as a facilitator.

A mere day earlier, Agudath Israel, at its annual national convention, had adopted a resolution in opposition to Israel’s “relinquish[ing] parts of Jerusalem to Palestinian sovereignty” and asking the American government to “not pressure” the Israelis to do so.  Both at the pre-Annapolis meeting with Mr. Hadley and the post-Annapolis meeting with Secretary Rice, Rabbi Zwiebel reiterated that stance, which he said represented a “broad consensus” in the American Orthodox community.

“This was an excellent opportunity to relay the depth of our community’s concern over the issue of Jerusalem to high ranking Bush administration officials just as the Annapolis process was getting started,” the Agudath Israel leader noted.  “I believe our words made an impact, and I anticipate that this dialogue will continue in the weeks and months ahead.”

5 Responses

  1. It is totally naive to assume that the U.S. will formulate its policies according to the dictates of the Agudah, or any other Jewish organization. The meetings are an attempt to quiet down the Jewish organizations and prevent them from making a tumult that would hamper the “Piece Process.”

    America will continue to pursue its goals of securing the oil supply in the Middle East and pacifying Iraq and its nighnoring countries. The State Department believes that this requires highly visible concessions to the Palestinians that will palcate the Arab leaders. If Israel has to take some hits, that’s unfortunate. It is a price that must be paid for stability.

    Agudah would be wise to appeal to a Higher Power.

  2. President Bush has accomplished very little in his seven years in office. He appears to be the modern Achashveirosh (i.e., Melech Tipaish). It is a Chutzpah Gedolah for this lame-duck president, who no longer needs us, to try to create a legacy for himself by betraying his loyal supporters.

    It is also a Chutzpah Gedolah for Secretary Rice to proclaim that, as the daughter and granddaughter of Christian ministers, she has the authority to change the clear message of the Torah HaKedoshah: that all of Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael were given to us by the Ribono Shel Olam.

    We sincerely appreciate the efforts of Agudas Yisrael and other Frum organizations in using quiet diplomacy to convince Bush and Rice to change their mistaken views.

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