February 3, 2000
Community Groups Weigh in on Golan
Bennett Zimmerman, a buttoned-down investment fund manager by day, stood up at the end of an evening's conversation and removed his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with bold Hebrew letters spelling out Ha'am im HaGolan -- The People are with the Golan.
Although negotiations between Israel and Syria on the future of the Golan are on hold, concerned Jews, like Zimmerman, think it's not too early to weigh in on what promises to be an agonizing debate within American Jewry, no less than among Israelis.
At this point, major local Jewish organizations have not yet spoken out, waiting for resumption of the Israeli-Syrian talks, under American auspices, and the terms of a final settlement between the two governments.
But Zimmerman feels he has to act now to try and forestall what he perceives as a suicidal surrender of vital Israeli territory and interests.
On the other side, delegations of Reform rabbis and lay leaders met recently with Israeli diplomatic officials here and across the country. They expressed full support for the course being charted by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his government, which looks toward Israeli withdrawal from the Golan as the price for a lasting peace with Syria, the Jewish state's most intractable neighbor.
Zimmerman is the ad-hoc chairman of the newly formed Friends of the Golan and he and four other members sat down with a reporter recently to lay out their case.
"I agree with what Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stated that whoever gives up the Golan gives up the security of Israel," said Zimmerman. "Syria has shown that it really doesn't want peace, but it looks like Barak's policy is on autopilot and he is buckling under pressure from President Clinton."