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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


An op-ed that appeared in both Palm Beach Jewish Journal & Dade Jewish Journal by local chapter leader chapter leader J. Zel Lurie

THE JOURNEY OF JOSEPH LIEBERMAN
By J. Zel Lurie

The most important Jew in the United States, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, spent twelve days during the Christmas recess in Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Talking to reporters in Tel Aviv and Riyadh, the Jew, who, together with Al Gore, won the support of a majority of American voters in 2000, and who is about to announce his candidacy for President in 2004, made several important, even remarkable, statements, about how to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

In Tel Aviv, after meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem and with leaders of the Palestine Authority in Ramallah, the veteran Democratic Senator from Connecticut told reporters: "It is important to bring about hope to the Palestinians and among Israelis because without hope there is no progress."

In Riyadh, after meeting with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah, he told reporters that the United States had missed the boat by not getting behind Prince Abdullah's peace initiative in March. It was a "missed opportunity," he said, adding, "I made an appeal to the crown prince yesterday to find a way to restate it."

He also told the Saudis that the American Administration should allocate more humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Their "human conditions are not acceptable," he said.

Similar sentiments have been voiced by peaceniks, and in this column, for years. Coming from Senator Lieberman they are remarkable because during his fourteen years in the Senate he has been the a leading Democratic hawk and a vocal supporter of the Israel government. In April he hosted Bibi Netanyahu and introduced him to a group of senators.

A few days later, in a speech to Florida Democrats, he closely followed the AIPAC party line. President Bush had demanded that Israel withdraw its forces from Palestinian cities. Sharon refused. Lieberman strongly criticized the White House action.

That was April. In December he came, he saw, he listened and he made up his own mind. Even as a hawk on war with Iraq, with which I strongly disagree, he tries to be rational. As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee he has received several classified briefings on Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction Iraq's denial is a lie, he says, but he wonders why the CIA doesn't share its knowledge with the UN inspectors in Iraq and tell them where to find Iraq's WMD, if they have them.

And I wonder why the New York Times and the Jewish weeklies, including this one, have ignored the statements by the first Jewish candidate for president of the United States, which are contrary to the policies of the Sharon/Settler government. It should be mentioned that the Senator is a traditional Jew, a shomer mitzvot. Together with his wife, Hadassah, he celebrated the Sabbath of his visit at Yeshivat Ma'ale Gilboa in the Galilee.

Senator Lieberman zeroed in on the crux of the problem -- without hope there can be no progress towards peace. Hope flew out the Palestinian window when the Taba negotiations were abruptly ended by Ehud Barak before the last elections, which were won by Arik Sharon. The victor's first announcement was that Israel would not return to Taba.

As for a Palestine state, Sharon said that the most the Palestinians could hope for was 42 percent of the West Bank. But he wouldn't even talk about it until the Palestine authority controlled the Hamas and Jihad suicide bombers, He then directed every retaliation for a suicide bombing to the destruction of the PA's security apparatus and government offices.

Without hope and with their offices in ruins, the PA is virtually helpless. The terror continues unabated, Jews are being killed but the White House demand that the settlements be frozen as a first step towards peace is no longer heard.

Hope in Israel is also in very short supply. As long as the terror continues, more people will vote for Sharon and the settlements rather than Amram Mitzna, who has offered compensation to any settler who will come home to Israel.

At his press conference in Tel Aviv, Senator Lieberman said that the Bush Administrations should be "more actively engaged" in breaking the Israel-Palestinian gridlock. While Bush has been actively engaged in preparing to attack Iraq, his buddy, Tony Blair, has assumed the role of peace maker. He invited the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to London, but Sharon used the excuse of the double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv to forbid the departure of the Palestinians. As this is being written on January 8, the New York times editorialized: "Israel cannot afford to let the most radical Palestinians drive the Mideast agenda... Israel's goal should be to marginalize Palestinian terrorists not to advance their cause...Both camps will have to look beyond the daily bloodshed to the long-term welfare of their peoples. Israel can do just that by letting Palestinian representatives attend the London meeting."

I do not know whether this meeting will take place, whether it would have any result if it does, or whether Senator Lieberman will continue to talk rationally in the face of opposition by the Likud Government and its powerful supporters in this country. But I do know what you can do to get the Administration and Congress to move towards peace.

You can support the lobbying effort in Washington of Americans for Peace Now to put conditions on the $8 billion loan guarantees for Israel to make sure that no money goes to the settlements. You can join a new grassroots organization, the Jewish Alliance for Peace and Justice, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. Less than a year old; the Alliance has become a leading advocate of American intervention to bring hope to Jews and Palestinians.

Growing fast the Alliance now has nearly two thousand member in 26 chapters throughout the United States. Send an e-mail to info@btvshalom.org for the address of the nearest chapter.

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