Jewish groups refuse to meet with Abbas
October 10, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Major American Jewish organizations refused to allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to use them as a shield and convenient excuse not to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, according to one influential leader.
The position taken, and the strong message sent, by the American Jewish leadership is in stark contrast to that of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which has held separate meetings this year with Abbas in Ramallah and with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman.
Abbas “has no real interest in either the truth or in serious negotiations: he wants everything handed to him on a silver platter,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
“Israel has been very forthcoming. Anybody who would really look into how much Israel has done to try to induce negotiations and to get [Abbas] to the table and give him cover, including paying a fortune to the Palestinian Authority, advancing money, work permits – tens of thousands of work permits every day – would understand why it’s imperative [Abbas] gets the message that he can’t be received here and be [enabled] to bypass negotiations with Israel and say, ‘Well, I’ve met with the Jews and they still love [me],’ etc.”
The Conference of Presidents has a 50-year history of outstanding leadership in American and world Jewish affairs. It is the central coordinating body for American Jewry and has 52-member organizations.
It was reported in the media that the meeting was cancelled after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned businessman and publisher Mort Zuckerman and asked him not to meet with Abbas.
However, according to other media reports, 10 people did meet with Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) in New York on Sept. 24, including representatives of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, non-mainstream organizations and some private individuals.
Hoenlein said the centre’s chair, S. Daniel Abraham, had originally planned to co-host the meeting with prominent businessman and newspaper publisher Mort Zuckerman.
Hoenlein said he was invited to attend by Zuckerman, who also invited Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, as well as others.
Todd Gutnick, director of media relations and public information for the ADL, confirmed that Foxman “was invited to the meeting with Mr. Abbas and that ultimately he decided not to attend.”
Hoenlein clarified, “The prime minister [Netanyahu] never intervened. It was not the reason why we made the decision. The people invited, which included the heads of several of the key [American Jewish] organizations and the co-host of the meeting [Zuckerman], all opted not to participate because Mr. Abbas refuses to talk to Israeli officials, refuses to negotiate and, when you study the record, it’s clear that he’s trying to avoid it.”
To his knowledge, not one major Jewish organization was represented at the meeting that did take place, said Hoenlein.
“Promises [Abbas] made to those who were there [at the Sept. 24 meeting] – about his speech at the UN and what he would say – were completely, completely neglected,” added Hoenlein.
CIJA received harsh criticism, publicly and privately, from members of the Jewish community who were outraged after news broke of its meetings with Abbas and Abdullah.
Following CIJA’s meeting with Abbas, Frank Dimant, CEO, B’nai Brith Canada, said his organization respected CIJA’s right to determine its own policy on behalf of UJA Federation and hold meetings as it deemed fit. However, after numerous individuals contacted B’nai Brith with their serious concerns, Dimant said, the Jewish human rights organization reached out to government officials.
“We have now ascertained through due diligence the Canadian government does not want to return to the days of being an ‘honest broker’ and will continue being an ally of the only democracy in the Middle East,” Dimant said at the time. “We can assure community members the government will stay the course at this crucial time as the ‘Arab Spring’ dramatically alters the region and raises Israel’s security concerns. We have been told in no uncertain terms that the Harper government will continue its principled approach to the Middle East situation.”
A representative from CIJA did not respond to the Jewish Tribune’s phone message in time for this paper’s deadline.