Jewish Leaders to Gather in Jerusalem on Future of Peace Process

Two-day conference on October 20 will discuss whether a compromise on Jerusalem will divide the Jewish people and bring about a national trauma affecting communities in the Diaspora.

WASHINGTON - The leaders of Jewish organizations from around the world and important Jewish figures will meet in Jerusalem for a two-day conference on October 20 in a meet being organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. It is to deliberate the impact on the Jewish people of the peace process and possible concessions to be expected.

Among the topics to be discussed will be whether a compromise on Jerusalem will divide the Jewish people and bring about a national trauma affecting communities in the Diaspora. Another major question: Should the Diaspora take some part, if any, in determining the final outcome of the process?

Participants in the conference will be former presidential adviser Elliott Abrams; Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations; former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer; the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman; the senior vice president of Bna'i B'rith International, Daniel Mariaschin; Pierre Besnainou, a leading figure of the Jewish community in France; and others.

"When the Oslo process began, the Palestinians said 'the issue of Jerusalem is not us, it is the entire Arab nation.' And, tactically, it could be that the Jewish people need to say the same thing - that Jerusalem was pledged to the Jewish people. Today this is a much more urgent issue," the founding director of the institute, Avinoam Bar-Yosef, told Haaretz. Bar-Yosef said: "Currently there is a political process that is expected to focus on the core issues, Jerusalem, access to the holy sites, the character of the State of Israel. These are issues that even if the Jewish people in the Diaspora do not participate in the discussions, it affects their future and [they] must express an opinion and make sure that it is being heard."

Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
AP / Corrado Giambalvo

At earlier institute conferences, the president and the prime minister, as well as the head of the opposition, took part. This year, if the conference takes place in parallel with talks planned in France, it may be that other ministers will participate; the conclusions and recommendations that will emerge from the deliberations will be relayed to President Shimon Peres to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the heads of Jewish communities around the world.

Institute figures say the significance of the views of the Jewish Diaspora is reflected in meetings between senior members of the Jewish community in the United States and the Palestinian leadership recently in New York and Washington. They also say that the prime minister has presented the root of the conflict as being embedded in the refusal to "recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of its own in its historic homeland."