February 26, 2001
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) pledges to reinvigorate its solidarity with and action on behalf of Israel. As with all of his predecessors, we express support for Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon’s search for a secure and lasting peace in the Middle East. We also deeply appreciate Prime Minster Ehud Barak’s contributions over many years to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
In the United States, last month’s inauguration of President George W. Bush and the appointment of new foreign policy and national defense teams – as well as selection of several new key committee chairs in Congress – present both a challenge and opportunity for the organized American Jewish community. In light of these changes, it is all the more important that we work to ensure that the United States continues to build upon its special partnership with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. Based on shared democratic values and strategic interests, this relationship has blossomed for decades regardless of which party is in power there in Jerusalem or here in Washington.
Chairman Yasser Arafat and other leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have much to do to restore a sense of hope in the peace process. They must stop the Palestinian-initiated violence, cease anti-Israel incitement, eliminate hatred toward Israel and Jews being taught in Palestinian schools and fulfill all of their obligations under the Oslo Accords. True peace — not just signed agreements between leaders — will not be achieved unless the Palestinians and the Arab states, particularly Egypt and Jordan, begin to educate their societies for normal relations with the State of Israel.
We deplore attempts by Chairman Arafat and other Arab leaders to deny Jerusalem’s unique place within Jewish religion and history. We also reject any effort, under the banner of the “right of return,” to force Israel to accept hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. In the context of 24 million refuges in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East during this period, whose descendants probably numbered more than 100 million, the Palestinian’s claim to return has no legitimacy and is nothing more than a formula for Israel’s destruction. We reaffirm our support for Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided, Capital of Israel. We continue to call for the swift implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995, acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and calling for the immediate transfer of the United States Embassy to that city.
We encourage President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is visiting the region these days, to continue the important U.S. role of encouraging and assisting the parties to reach agreements. At the same time, we welcome the administration’s stated intention to move beyond the Palestinian-Israeli issue and to focus sustained attention on threats to regional stability emanating from Iran and Iraq. On the northern front, the U.S. should press Syria to rein in Hezbollah terrorists who continue to attack Israeli targets from southern Lebanon.
The organized American Jewish community feels passionately about the fate of our Israeli brothers and sisters. We are especially concerned with the plight of the three soldiers and one civilian held captive in Lebanon by the Hezbollah. We urge the United States government, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the international community to do everything possible to secure their release and safe return to their families.
American Jews will continue to closely follow and engage one another and others on these issues affecting Israel’s future. The JCPA will continue to provide the common table around which the representatives of its 123 locally-based and 13 national organizations can gather to respectfully air their views in an effort to forge consensus and to chart a common course seeking to achieve peace with security for Israel.