1. US Pressure on Israel
Recent weeks have witnessed activity by the United States Administration to pressure Israel to agree to a specific percentage of territory in the next phase of redeployment.
In letters to Congress and the Administration, the IPA/OU expressed the view that pressure on Israel in the peace negotiations is unproductive and contrary to promises made by the United States to Israel that she alone will be the determinant of her security needs and that the United States should remain a facilitator and mediator.
The IPA issued a statement on behalf of seven Orthodox Jewish organizations including AMIT, Emunah, National Council of Young Israel, Poale Agudath Israel, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Religious Zionists of America and the Orthodox Union, emphasizing the importance of United States support for Israel and stating that the Administration should not exert undue pressure on Israel to concede to conditions she views unacceptable and as a threat to her security.
Pressure on Israel in the peace negotiations prejudices the peace negotiations and deprives the Palestinians with the incentive to comply with their agreements in the Oslo Accords to combat terrorism and violence and cease incitement. A copy of the joint statement by the organizations is enclosed.
A letter was sent by OU President Mandell I. Ganchrow, MD to Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) thanking him for the staunch and unwavering friendship and support for Israel that he has demonstrated not only recently but for many years. We welcome the Speaker’s comments deploring US pressure on Israel and his statements that, “Israel must be able to decide her own security needs.”
Dr. Ganchrow also thanked the Speaker for his support of Jerusalem as the united and eternal capital of Israel, and urged him to continue to support moving the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in compliance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
This Act was a nearly unanimous decision of the US Congress and moving the Embassy would rectify the unconscionable fact that only Israel, of all countries of the world, has been denied the right to choose her own capital.
2. Israel and the United Nations
The IPA/OU, as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) representing our community in the United Nations, has supported and actively worked for the creation of an office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to engender UN activity on human rights concerns.
Recently, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement in the wake of Palestinian Arab riots in Israel calling upon the government of Israel to “respect the right to peaceful assembly.” The rioters in question were throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and fired on Israeli troops.
We were deeply disturbed by this criticism which reflects the historic bias against Israel on the part of the UN and, with a group of Jewish NGO’s, sent a letter to Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressing our deep concern that the UN in general and her office in particular not misrepresent events like these that take place in Israel and requested that she correct the error and implication made in her statement.
The IPA has long advocated that Israel be accepted into a regional group in the United Nations as she is the only member state of the UN that for political reasons has been denied membership to one of the world body’s regional groups.
This second class status has prevented Israel from participating in a number of important bodies at the UN responsible for the most crucial decision making including the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council.
On a regional basis, Israel’s most appropriate group would be the Asian Group, but that group, comprised of mostly Arab countries, has prevented Israel’s membership for decades. Israel has sought membership in the Western European and Others Group (WEOG). The WEOG is not organized upon geographical lines, but includes states that are similar to the Western European states in that they have western style democratic governments.
The WEOG includes Australia, Iceland, Canada and others including the Western Europeans. Since Israel shares in the democratic values held by these governments membership in this group would provide a measure of fairness to Israel and would enable her to fully participate in the important decisions that affect her well-being as well as enable Israel to fully contribute her expertise and enhance the UN process.
States that were admitted long after Israel was admitted to the UN have been accepted into regional groups. Even Iraq, Iran and Cuba are eligible to serve on the Security Council or other key deliberative UN groups. So too are Libya, North Korea, Syria and the Sudan.
In recent months the IPA has worked closely with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) in the Senate and Representative Steven Rothman (D-NJ) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the House in organizing Congressional initiatives advocating Israel’s membership in the WEOG.
The Orthodox Union praised Senator Moynihan for adopting Resolution 188 calling for Israel’s membership in a UN regional group. However, this call has yet to be fulfilled.
Letters should go out from OU members all across the country to Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, New York, NY 10017 (email: survey@UN.org) to encourage him to bring about the end to the discriminatory treatment of Israel as the only UN member denied membership in a regional group and asking him to encourage members of the EU to accept Israel as a temporary member of the WEOG.
This would be in keeping with Secretary Annan’s commitment to bring true reform to the workings of the United Nations. Letters should go out to Ambassadors of the European Union countries as well asking the same. A list of Ambassadors and addresses is available from the IPA and may be obtained by calling (212) 613-8123.
3. IPA Participation at AIPAC Policy Conference
This year’s AIPAC Policy Conference was attended by IPA representatives Mandell I. Ganchrow, MD, Jerry Gontownik, Heshe Seif, Zvi Friedman, David Raab, Rosalie Zalis and Betty Ehrenberg.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice President Al Gore addressed the plenary sessions and meetings were held with Congressional leaders. Many aspects of Israel were discussed including economic and security issues.
During the AIPAC Executive Committee meeting, OU President Dr. Mandell Ganchrow raised important motions that were passed by the participants.
The first motion addressed the issue of PLO incitement which constitutes a major obstacle in the peace process. Alarming statements continue to be issued in Arabic to the Palestinians by Arafat and his lieutenants including praise for terrorists who have murdered Israelis.
Another deeply disturbing element of this incitement constitutes programming for children on Palestinian TV fashioned after “Sesame Street” as a tool for teaching hatred. In one of the programs a Palestinian child dressed in a costume in a room decorated with Disney characters stands up and cries, “When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem I will turn into a suicide warrior in battle dress” as an adult leader cheers, “Bravo, Bravo.”
Dr. Ganchrow introduced the motion that AIPAC monitor Arabic statements by Arafat as well as Palestinian television and radio and other educational outlets. Reports of this monitoring should be disseminated not only to members of AIPAC and to national Jewish organizations but also to Congress and the media.
The second adopted resolution was Dr. Ganchrow’s call to reject any compromise regarding the acceptance of a Palestinian State. The committee then decided that “The nature of the future of a Palestinian entity can only be resolved in direct final status negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel; any unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood should be opposed by the United States because it would be inimical to peace.”
The third accepted motion introduced by Dr. Ganchrow concerned the question of Jerusalem. This final motion concerned “ensuring that Jerusalem remains a free, undivided city, the capital of Israel, and of no other nation or entity, under Israeli sovereignty, with open, unhindered access to religious sites for people of all faiths and securing the full implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act which states as a matter of US policy that Jerusalem should remain united and should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and mandates the moving of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May, 1999.”
4. Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA)
In recent years the United States government has enacted this legislation to confront the new level of sophistication of terrorist groups who have targeted American citizens and others around the world including the attack on the Marine installation in Beirut, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and the subsequent murder of Leon Klinghoffer, the World Trade Center bombing, and the bombing of Pan Am 103 in which our beloved Treasurer Joseph K. Miller, perished.
The IPA supported this legislation and urged our elected officials to pass it.
We were deeply dismayed to learn that President Clinton recently chose to waive ILSA sanctions for the French company Total which recently signed a two billion dollar oil investment deal with Iran in partnership with Russian and Malaysian firms.
Penalties on companies who do business with Iran should be enforced since the said legislation has been designed to eliminate revenues which fund Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and its nuclear weapons program.
The IPA sent a letter to Senator Alfonse D’Amato (R-NY) who led the fight for the passage of ILSA urging him to reassume his position of leadership on this very urgent issue and to do his best to strengthen ILSA. This waiver can be viewed as a lack of willingness on the part of the United States to implement its own mechanisms that would prevent the danger of the spread of terrorism. We urge elected and Administration officials to ensure that ILSA remain a strong and effective measure that will strengthen the battle against terrorism.
The IPA is supporting the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, a bill that would impose sanctions on countries exporting missile technology to Iran.
This measure is aimed mainly at Russia which has helped Iran refine its missile delivery systems but will also apply to other foreign governments or businesses.
This bi-partisan legislation requires the President to submit a report to Congress thirty days after enactment, providing a list of the entities for which there was credible evidence of the transferring or attempting to transfer goods, technology, or technical assistance that contributed to Iran’s efforts to acquire, develop or produce ballistic missiles.
The sanctions would include denial of arms, export licenses and American aid for two years, among others.
5. Israeli MIAs
The IPA, long in the forefront in the struggle for the release and return of the Israeli soldiers missing in action, has been working closely with members of the US Senate and the House of Representatives in recent weeks to obtain updated information on the status and condition of these missing Israeli soldiers, namely Zachary Baumel, Yehudah Katz, Zvi Feldman and Ron Arad.
Efforts are being made in Congress by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and. Congressman Charles Schumer (D-NY).
June 11, 1998 marks the sixteenth anniversary of the day that these soldiers were reported missing in action.
On this day in 1982 an Israeli tank unit battled with a Syrian armored unit in the Bekaa Valley in northeastern Lebanon. Captured by the Syrians, they were identified as an Israeli tank unit and were paraded, with the tank, through the streets of Damascus by their captors. The tank, flying the Syrian and Palestinian flags, was greeted with jeers and cheers from bystanders.
Recent news reports of evidence regarding two tanks in the possession of the Russians as being linked with these soldiers has proven to be false. The IPA is continuing to work closely with the families of the soldiers and Congress in this pursuit of justice and “Pidyon shvuyim.”
For sixteen years, these parents have been without their children and answers are long overdue. We ask all our members to contact their elected officials, urging them to keep this issue high on the agenda. Letters should be sent; addresses are available here or by calling 212-613-8124.