By Munir K. Nasser
The major Jewish lobbying group, AIPAC, is facing challenges on a number of fronts, including anger in Congress over Israel's plans to sell sophisticated military equipment to China.
According to Washington insiders, recent challenges to AIPAC have complicated its task to promote a pro-Israel agenda in Congress.
AIPAC is also facing a wave of criticism from other Jewish groups for moving to silence dissent over “Israel’s concessions to the Palestinians” in the final status negotiations. Last week, AIPAC fired one of its key leaders for talking to the press about his dissent over “Israeli concessions.” The lobbying group had asked for the resignation of its executive committee chairman, Gerald Charnoff, after he signed a letter to Barak expressing concern over the Israeli's negotiating positions with the Palestinian. In the letter, Charnoff is identified as an "officer of major national Jewish organizations," in an apparent attempt to avoid creating the impression that he represented AIPAC. The letter is being published in a number of American newspapers and magazines this week as an advertisement.
Charnoff also made comments to the press last week in which he said he was very “concerned that a consensus was not being built within the duly elected government of Israel to support a number of negotiating positions attributed to Barak.”
The national director of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, criticized AIPAC for firing Charnoff and described the move as “an appalling abridgement of an individual's constitutional rights to express his opinion." He added that Charnoff's removal sends "a chilling message of a lack of tolerance and respect for freedom of speech by AIPAC." Klein argued that "At a time of such a potential crisis in Israel, and with such a large division of opinions, it's a time to speak out, not to be silent."
‘Stop Pushing Israel’
Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation of four Knesset members spent an intensive week in Washington pressing Congress to pressure President Clinton “to stop pushing Israel into making concessions for the sake of a fraudulent peace that could be suicidal for the Jewish state.”
The members of the Knesset, representing the Likud Party, Herut and Yisrael Beteinu, met with forty Senators and Congressmen on key Congressional Committees, including Armed Services, Appropriations, International Relations, and Foreign Relations. They were urging Senators and Representatives to sign a letter to President Clinton, reminding him of the unresolved issues between the Palestinians and Israel. They said the timetable of the negotiations should not be determined by the fact that Clinton’s term of office was coming to an end.
The draft of the letter stressed that “the future of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city must be guaranteed in any peace agreement. The ‘right of return’ of millions of Arab ‘refugees’ must be relinquished. Anything less would only be a cease fire, which the US should not endorse or underwrite.”
The draft letter stated that Congress believes “that there should be no US pressure on Israel to agree to territorial concessions in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan which would have irreversible repercussions. We ask you to take into account the demand for tens of billions of US dollars to guarantee implementation of territorial changes, the relocation of Israelis left homeless with the land giveaways, and the long term nature of these dramatic change,” according to the draft.
The draft letter will begin circulating for signatures after the Independence Day holiday weekend on July 5th.
Syria and Lebanon
At a reception hosted for the delegation by Americans for a Safe Israel, a petition signed by fifty members of the Knesset was presented to the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, calling for “an end to Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, in accordance with UN Resolution 520.”
A draft of a resolution to be circulated among members of Congress for signatures also calls on “the US to apply sanctions to Syria should that government refuse to comply with 520.”
The draft resolution said “the US must insist that the Lebanese government cease the persecution of the SLA, and release the 2,000 who are now detained in Beirut jails. The 6,000 Lebanese who escaped to Israel from Lebanon should be allowed to return to their country, retrieve their property, and have their safety guaranteed by the government. Without these conditions being met, the US must reconsider economic aid to Lebanon,” the draft said – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)