Labor Supporters in NY Say Jews Unfamiliar With Peretz; Trying to Arrange Visit Before the Elections

NEW YORK - Prominent New York supporters of the Labor Party are introducing the local Jewish community to chairman Amir Peretz's social and political views.

Jewish leaders involved in such efforts told Haaretz yesterday that they hope to rectify a situation in which the vast majority of Jews are unfamiliar with the ideology of the man who heads Israel's opposition. This lack of knowledge clearly counters the importance of involving the community in Israeli events, the head of a Jewish organization said.

"I hope Peretz will find an opportunity to visit the United States before the elections," Seymour Reich, president of the liberal Israel Policy Forum, said yesterday.

Reich said that even Jews who have been following recent developments in Israeli politics do not grasp the significance of Peretz's move from Histadrut labor federation chairman to prime ministerial candidate.

Conversations with community activists suggested there is curiosity about Peretz's opinions on various issues, including relations with the United States. However, people have been disappointed with Peretz's failing to express his interest to visit New York.

Haaretz has learned that Friends of the Labor Party in New York are looking into bringing Peretz over to introduce himself to the community. The head of the National Committee for Labor Israel, Jerry Goodman, confirmed yesterday that he is trying to promote "an initiative that is still in the idea phase." That initiative would bring Peretz to New York for two or three days, during which he would address the heads of Jewish organizations and gain some media exposure in the Jewish and general press.

Jewish activists close to the Labor Party leadership said yesterday that several of Peretz's advisers are in favor of a New York visit prior to the elections. However, Peretz does not think it is a good idea.

Peretz last visited New York at the beginning of the year, when he addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Several years ago, Peretz delivered a speech at a meeting in Chicago of the board of directors of America's largest union.