NEW YORK - New York Jewish leaders encouraged U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene aggressively in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over the Gaza border crossings, telling her this would gain the support of American Jews, according to sources affiliated with the community's liberal wing.
In particular, the sources said, they urged her to take a tough line against Israel, especially on issues such as a settlement freeze and dismantling illegal settlement outposts. The sources said several leading New York Jews held talks with Rice recently at which these issues, as well as the impasse over the border crossings, were discussed.
However, they also urged her to press the Palestinian Authority to meet its commitment to fight terror.
Among others, Rice met in Washington earlier this month with the heads of the left-wing Israel Policy Forum, who expressed their views on various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Following the meeting, the forum also sent her a policy paper in which it urged the U.S. to take "aggressive" action on three issues.
"The U.S. should embark on these steps immediately and vigorously. The three steps are interrelated. The success or failure of one will impact on the success or failure of the others. The program presented will allow the United States to help build and reinforce the first section of the bridge that began with this summer's disengagement and must end with the viable and realistic two-state solution," according to the IPF policy paper entitled "Building a Bridge from Disengagement to Two States."
"The three steps that should be implemented in tandem, rather than in sequence, are as follows: Unambiguous and effective efforts by the PA to control terror and prevent attacks on Israelis; an Israeli freeze on extending existing settlements, including roads and other associated infrastructure, and removal of unauthorized settlement outposts; and efforts to help grow the Palestinian economy so the Palestinian Authority can provide jobs and basic services for Palestinians. This effort would help strengthen the PA's position among the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas."
IPF President Seymour Reich, who participated in the meeting with Rice, told Haaretz, "We don't presume to say that it was because of our conversation with the secretary of state, or the political paper we sent her, that she acted so aggressively to achieve the border crossing agreement." However, he added, "I have no doubt that we bolstered Rice's instinct and strengthened her opinion that aggressive American involvement was needed to achieve practical results."
Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was not uncommon for Jewish organizations to lobby the administration to exert pressure on Israel. Foxman himself opposes such activity, but said the IPF, Americans for Peace Now and sometimes the Reform Movement all engage in it.
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