ADL to Issue Its Own Pro-disengagement Call

Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said this week that several members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization have expressed misgivings at explicitly expressing support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagment plan, promoting the ADL to draft its own statement of backing for the withdrawal initiative.

The ADL will circulate the document in the next few days to other major organizations, asking them to add their signatures, Foxman told Haaretz on Tuesday.

In four concise paragraphs, the ADL statement argues that the State of Israel has been forced to undertake defensive measures in the face of "unceasing and unchecked Palestinian terrorism."

Viewing disengagement as consistent with Israel's long term-strategic interests, it concludes: "We, the undersigned, support the State of Israel in its ongoing struggle to protect and secure its population, and recognize and support bold initiatives such as the disengagement plan."

Foxman said he had recently approached Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents' Conference, about drafting a joint statement of support. He quoted Hoenlein as having said that achieving consensus would be difficult.

Despite disagreements which Foxman said "reflect the diversity of the American Jewish community," he remains convinced that the large majority of Jewish organizations support the prime minister's plan.

Hoenlein denied that there are any differences of opinion within the organization with regard to the substance of the statement, stating that there are only disagreements over the timing of publication of such a statement of support.

?We conducted contacts between the organizations and were very surprised that many of the Jewish organizations did not agree to the timing of such a statement." Hoenlein said that all of the responses of the leaders of the organizations had been noted, and that the Conference of Presidents woulod discuiss the matter at the end of the month.

Reform Movement leader Rabbi Eric Yoffe criticized the Conference for failing to unite behind Sharon.

Individual organizations are entitled to their opinion, he said, but supporting Israel's leadership at critical political junctures, was precisely the raison d'etre of an umbrella organization.

Seymour Reich, a former chair of the Conference said that even without a consensus, the current chairman should have made a public statement of support, thereby giving voice to the prevailing sentiment among American Jews, who by and large are in favor of the disengagement plan.

Senior Jewish officials in New York noted yesterday that Conference director Malcolm Hoenlein, and chairman James Tisch had made explicit statements in support of disengagement in February this year.