'World Jews Must Play Role in Future Mideast Peace Talks'

U.S. Jewish leaders mark a radical departure from the Jewish Diaspora's traditional custom of deferring all such decisions to Israeli government.

International Jewish leaders are demanding a role in determining the fate of Jerusalem and other key issues in Mideast peace talks.

Abe Foxman, AP
AP / Corrado Giambalvo

Over 120 leaders of Jewish organizations from around the world and important Jewish figures met in Jerusalem for a two-day conference for a meeting organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute to deliberate the impact of the peace process and possible concessions to be expected.

U.S. and European Jewish leaders said Jerusalem belongs to all Jews, and they must play a role in its future.

The comments Thursday at a conference in Jerusalem marked a radical departure from the Jewish Diaspora's traditional custom of deferring all such decisions to the Israeli government.

Palestinians demand control of east Jerusalem, including its key holy sites, as the capital of their future state. Many world Jewish groups publicly oppose such a concession.

Some 120 leaders from the largest world Jewish organizations attended the annual meeting.

Participants in the conference were 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.

Meanwhile, JCall, a group of Jewish-American leaders on Friday launched an online petition urging an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Called "For the Sake of Zion," the petition is signed by dozens of prominent American rabbis, judges, writers, academics and philanthropists.

"Encouraged by the recent European 'Call For Reason,' signed by more than 5,200 Jewish citizens of European countries, we, American Jews passionately devoted to the safety and welfare of the State of Israel, now add our voices to those of our European kinsfolk," the group's petition reads.

"They recognize, as do we, that Israel faces existential threats, both from without and from within. We do not take these lightly, but we reject the view that they are Israel’s inevitable destiny."

The signatories, some of which have lived in Israel, go on to say that the Jewish people are entitled to live in a sovereign state.

The petition calls for both sides to advance toward a two-state solution, which they say requires concession and commitments from both sides.