Sharon Wins Big With Bush

One historic concession deserves another. Just four months after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — the father of the settlement movement — stunned Israelis by pledging to evacuate some settlements, he got his payback from President Bush, who reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Israel’s claim to parts of the West Bank.

It was compensation, with interest: Sharon had scored perhaps the most stunning diplomatic triumph in the U.S.-Israeli alliance in a generation.

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949," Bush said Wednesday at a White House appearance with Sharon after the two leaders met. "It is realistic to expect that any final-status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

The statement, reiterated in a letter to Sharon, represents the first time the U.S. government has provided a formal commitment to Israel’s claim on parts of the West Bank.

Bush’s commitment came without any mention of land from Israel and was widely seen as a significant shift in U.S. policy in the region. It was a soaring historical moment fraught with grinding political realities.

Bush needs a Middle East success to bolster a reputation as a bold foreign policy leader that flags with each U.S. casualty in Iraq.

For his part, Sharon needs to show Israelis that his leadership through some of the nation’s most traumatic years is resulting in a diplomatic breakthrough.

In addition, Sharon faces a May 2 Likud Party referendum on his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, and other Likud figures have vowed to challenge any uprooting of settlements.

When talks on the dimensions of a withdrawal began in February, the Americans rejected out of hand any recognition of Israeli claims in the West Bank. Subsequently, U.S. officials said they would consider such a recognition depending on the breadth of the withdrawal.

According to a senior Israeli official, the disengagement plan Sharon presented to Bush calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank.

The settlements, encompassing 500 settlers, include Ganim, Homesh, Kadim and Sanur, all in the northern West Bank. The withdrawal from these settlements would provide contiguity for the Palestinians between Jenin and Nablus, a major Palestinian concern.

The official said any future withdrawal would depend on how the Palestinians respond to this proposal and whether they live up to their commitments.

No one expected Bush to so explicitly bury years of U.S. policy, which traditionally said all the land Israel captured in 1967 was up for negotiation.

At best, Bush was expected to recognize vague "demographic realities." Instead, he said it was "unrealistic" to expect Israel to return to its pre-1967 lines.

Bush moreover threw in an endorsement of Israel’s controversial security barrier as it is now routed.

"The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of that security effort should, as your government has stated, be a security rather than political barrier," he said.

Finally, Bush expressed his most emphatic rejection to date of the Palestinian demand that Arab refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to land in Israel that they left in 1948.

"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final-status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than Israel," he said.

Sharon gave very little in return. Against Bush’s repeated assurances that the Gaza withdrawal would spur forward the U.S.-led "road map" peace plan and its goal of a Palestinian state, Sharon referred only obliquely to "your vision" in his public remarks Wednesday.

The biggest political loser Wednesday appeared to be the Palestinians, who were paying the price for a leadership that refused to stop terrorism and never successfully engaged Bush.

"He is the first president who has legitimized the settlements in the Palestinian territories when he said that there will be no return to the borders of 1967," Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei was quoted as saying by Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

Qurei’s outlook was bleak.

"We as Palestinians reject that, we cannot accept that, we reject and refuse it," he said.

Senior Bush administration officials, however, said the Palestinians should view the letters as an opportunity.

"What we want is a situation where Palestinian leaders, committed to democracy and fighting terror, have a chance to take control of that territory as a down payment on the way toward a Palestinian state," one said. "And we propose to engage very vigorously with the Palestinian Authority to try and create the institutions that will allow them to do that."

Evangelicals Are Not Our ‘Natural Allies’

A few years ago, a few moderate American Jewish leaders tried to allay Jewish fears that the Christian right was a threat.

American Jews had it wrong, they said — former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, the Rev. Pat Robertson and their ilk really were quite nice, even open-minded fellows and strongly pro-Israel to boot. They were our friends.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) publicly praised Reed’s pro-Israel stance and invited Christian conservatives to ADL banquets. Christians, in turn, organized nationwide prayer vigils and lobbying campaigns to support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s vision of a greater Israel.

Basking in the glow of this newfound friendship, Reed proclaimed that the Jewish-Christian alliance for Israel was as important as the black-Jewish coalition for civil rights in the 1960s.

Then, a Hollywood film star produced, directed and bankrolled a cinematic portrayal of Jesus’ final hours that depicted Jews as Jesus’ killers, promoting an age-old anti-Semitic theme. Fearing that the film would stoke new anti-Semitism, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman pleaded that Gibson alter the film, the pope disavow it and the Christian evangelicals that had become Foxman’s allies sermonize against it — to no avail.

Foxman should have seen it coming.

For all their talk of loving Jews and Israel, conservative Christians’ No. 1 priority always has been to expand their influence and numbers at home and abroad.

Several years ago, I interviewed dozens of Christian activists for a book I was writing about a campaign against gay rights that bitterly divided many Oregon communities, where I was living at the time.

When I disclosed my Jewishness to the evangelicals I met in the course of my research, they responded with boundless curiosity and kindness. A few asked if they could accompany me to synagogue, professing their great affection for the Jewish people. Several spoke excitedly of their trips to Israel or their desire to visit there.

I found it all disarming and even a little flattering.

But then the invitations to attend their churches arrived, along with offers to pray for me. I declined them graciously and heard little else until my book, a critical but empathetic account of conservative Christian activists, was published.

The messages then began to get meaner and were often tinged with anti-Semitism.

“How could a Jew possibly write an unbiased account?” one asked.

Another told me to “go back to New York, where you belong.”

Today, some of those activists have gone on to mobilize support for Israel, working to insure that the Holy Land stays in Jewish hands so that “saved Christians” like themselves can enjoy their final rapture out of harm’s way.

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, these Christians have felt further justified for their alliance with Israel by the conviction that Judeo-Christian culture must protect itself against the followers of Mohammed, in preparation for the coming “clash of civilizations.”

My travels in evangelical America tell me that despite the claims of Jewish conservatives, and even moderate leaders like Foxman, conservative Christians are not our “natural allies.” In fact, most American Jews find themselves deeply at odds with the Christian right over a host of issues.

Witness the overwhelming support that the American Jewish community has given to the issue of gay marriage. In Massachusetts, a near unanimity of Jewish communal leaders support gay marital rights, and opinion polls nationally show Jews to be the most solidly in favor of gay marriage of any religious group.

Christian conservatives, needless to say, are champing at the bit to make gay marriage the next major battle in the “culture war.”

Even when it comes to Israel, evangelicals are out of step with American Jews and Israelis — most of whom would agree to trade land for peace if a viable peace plan were proposed. Evangelicals, by contrast, support the maximalist ideology of the most fundamentalist Jewish settlers, who view territorial concessions as suicidal.

The Jewish-Christian alliance was based on the idea that Israel needs as many friends as it can get. But it needs good friends — friends who believe in the importance of a democratic Jewish homeland, not those whose support for Israel is based on inflexible theological explanations for Israel’s right to exist.

The rift over “The Passion” should be a wake-up call to American Jewish leaders: The Jewish-Christian evangelical honeymoon is over. It may even be time to file for divorce.

Arlene Stein is a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and the author of “The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community’s Battle Over Sex, Faith, and
Civil Rights.”

The Circuit

Kollel’s New Home

More than 500 people gathered for the dedication of Kollel Los Angeles’ new home at 7216 Beverly Blvd., in the heart of the Beverly-Fairfax-Hancock Park communities. Rabbi Matisyahu Solomon addressed the crowd at the Chanukat Habayis dedication. Kollel, headed by its dean, Rabbi Chaim Fasman, has been an L.A. institution for 25 years.

Weizmann Double-Header

The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science hosted a reception featuring Dr. Misha Tsodyks,a member of the institute’s neurobiology department withAllan and Nicole Mutchnik; and Robin and Andy Katzenstein.

Nicole and Allan Mutchnik hosted a Chanukah party reception at their home for professor Ron Naaman of the chemical physics department at Weizmann Institute of Science, and his wife, Dr. Rachel Mamlok-Naaman, associate staff scientist at the institute’s department of science education.

Remembering Sept. 11

Yad B’Yad held its annual luncheon and fashion show benefit at the Olympic Collection. More than 250 women attended the event. The organization raised $25,000 for the victims of Sept. 11.

Israel Philharmonic’s 2001 Space Odyssey

A Dec. 12 benefit by the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was held at the Pacific Palisades estate of Dennis Tito, who recently made headlines as the world’s first space tourist when he visited the International Space Station via a Russian Soyuz capsule. Violinist Pinchas Zukerman performed at a private recital with pianist Marc Neikrug. The event raised $500,000 for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Power Panel

Gov. Gray Davis announced the appointment of Scott Svonkin, chief of staff for Assemblyman Paul Koretz, as a member of the state Respiratory Care Board Svonkin, Davis and Paul Koretz.

Now We Can All Breath Easier

Women’s Alliance for Israel drew 600 people to its membership forum at Sephardic Temple Tiffereth Israel. “Political Power, A Jewish Imperative?” was the topic at a panel moderated by Susan Estrich, a USC law professor, and featuring Rabbi Steven Leder of Wilshire Boulevard Temple; Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Temple Valley Beth Shalom; Rabbi Steven Weil of Beth Jacob Congregation.

Long Shelf Life

The Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles (JCLLA) has received a grant of $50,000 from the Weingart Foundation. The grant will go toward collection development. With its backlog of 30,000 Jewish items, the JCLLA is among the largest Jewish libraries in the nation, under the supervision of its director Abigail Yasgur and library committee chair Dr. Aaron Willis. JCLLA operates under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education.

New Year’s With the Prez

Rabbi Menachem Gottesman, dean of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, is the 2001 recipient of the Jerusalem Prize for Religious, Communal and Educational Leadership. The award was presented to Gottesman at the Jerusalem residence of Moshe Katsav, Israeli president, on Jan. 1.

Greenberg’s Close Encounter With Spielberg

Philanthropist Eric Greenberg received the Shoah Foundation’s annual Ambassador for Humanity Award from Shoah founder and chairman Steven Spielberg at director’s L.A. headquarters. Greenberg has donated several million dollars to various causes and organizations.

Peace Now Powwow

Americans for Peace Now held its third annual Yizthak Rabin Peace Award Dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel honoring the work of attorney Luis Lainer and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.

The evening, which raised $300,000, helped to bolster the hopes of those who remain committed to the Israeli peace process.

“The making of peace is a slow and deeply agonizing process,” Mitchell said. “There is no cause more noble and just than peace. There is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended.”

Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, chaired peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and led the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, which recommend ways of encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

Lainer’s pursuit of peace and justice led the attorney to co-found Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He serves as a board member for both The Federation and Americans for Peace Now. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Your Letters

Addiction Conference

Hello, my name is successful professional, social activist, community leader, major UJF donor and Jewish alcoholic (“Dirty Little Secret,” Oct. 12).

Last week I attended The Jewish Federation’s Addiction Conference. This week I arranged to enter a 30-day in-patient treatment program for substance abuse and addiction. Next week, God willing, I will be on the steps toward recovery.

Thank you Cheri Morgan, Annette Shapiro and others for sharing your stories; as well as to the physicians and clergy for the extra push I needed to seek treatment.

Thank you Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for providing the platform to publicize that alcoholism and all addiction is a nonsectarian disease; not the giant Jewish shonda that has inhibited me from getting help until now.

Name withheld by request

Dialogue Departure

I am deeply saddened that my friend and colleague, Rabbi John Rosove, has decided to leave the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue of Los Angeles (“Why I’m Leaving the Dialogue,” Oct. 26).

There is no excuse for the deplorable articles in the Minaret. To the extent that the authors and editors of the Minaret’s commentaries are themselves dialogue participants, they can and will be held accountable for their irresponsible actions. But without a dialogue, there is no possibility that they will ever be meaningfully educated about the enormity of their offense.

As for the foolish and offensive comments of Salam Al-Marayati, he has personally apologized for these remarks in private meetings, and publicly reiterated that apology in no less a forum than The New York Times. Al-Marayati has also reaffirmed in print that he accepts the right of the State of Israel to exist next to a Palestinian state.

It is vital that lines of communication remain open between Los Angeles’ Muslim and Jewish communities, especially during these critical times. We are all in this together. That is why we will keep talking. It is also why we intend to work to broaden the scope of our dialogue to include more representatives from both of our communities. As we do so, we hope Rosove will consider rejoining us.

Daniel Sokatch, Executive Director, Progressive Jewish Alliance


I share the disappointment of other Orthodox leaders in America and Israel that Rabbi Uri Regev of the Religious Action Center chose to compare Orthodox leaders with the Islamic fundamentalists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (“Reform Leader Angers Orthodox,” Oct. 26).

I wish he would have used the opportunity presented by unprecedented attacks against American and Israeli targets to unify rather than divide.

Rabbi Meyer H. May, President, Rabbinical Council of California

I do not think that ultra-Orthodox Israelis can be equated with terrorists, but I can understand Rabbi Uri Regev’s frustration.

I believe that the ultra-Orthodox present a greater threat to the State of Israel than any outside force. A democracy would not force its non-Orthodox citizens to leave the country in order to become legally married. And the ultra-Orthodox divisively accuse all other practicing Jews of destroying Judaism.

Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village

School Toxins

I am a second-grade teacher in LAUSD. Protecting children from toxic chemicals at school is great (“Toxic Crusaders,” Oct. 19), but, as usual, the devil is in the details.

LAUSD has not just banned toxic pesticides, but also cleaning products and dog and cat repellents.

Yes, children will no longer be exposed to toxic chemicals at school. Instead, they now will be exposed to toxic germs from other children on surfaces at school, leading to more absences and worse illnesses.

Or-Li Wallace, Valley Village

Discussing Israel, Zionism and Peace

As American Jews join in marking the 50th birthday of the State of Israel and the 100 years of the Zionist movement, there is cause for both celebration and concern.

“As we rejoice in the accomplishments of Israel, Zionism and American Jewry, they each face their own, though interrelated, crises,” says Yoav Ben-Horin, senior fellow at the Wilstein Institute of Jewish Policy Studies and former RAND Corp. strategic analyst.

Ben-Horin will explore both the triumphs and challenges in a series of five Sunday-morning lectures, sponsored by the Labor Zionist Alliance.

The first lecture, on Jan. 18, will examine “The Modern Middle East: Where From? What About?” with tickets available at the door. This and the following four monthly lectures and discussions will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Institute of Jewish Education, 8339 W. Third St.

Subsequent talks will deal with Zionism, Israel’s middle-age crisis, the peace process and American Jewry’s relationship to Israel.

“Each of these areas is in a state of flux and facing crucial crossroads,” says Ben-Horin. “One purpose of this series is to relate the topics to each other and see where they fit together. For instance, Israel’s struggle intersects with the evolution of American Jewry.”

Tickets are $40 for the entire series, and $10 per individual lecture. For information, call (213) 655-2842.

Organizers of the series are Bernard Weisberg, president of the regional Labor Zionist Alliance chapter, and Ethel Taft. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor