UCLA Organizes Officials to Revive 'Road Map'
A detailed new plan to breathe life into the Bush administration's road map and restore a cease-fire has been proposed by prominent Israelis and Palestinians and is now circulating among U.S. officials.
The Jerusalem Post reported Friday that the plan was hammered out at a Nov. 7-8 meeting in a hotel on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea and was organized by UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations, which gets $1.5 million annually from the Pentagon to promote Middle East dialogue.
In contrast to other recent private peace initiatives, the new plan focuses on intermediate steps, rather than on a long-range permanent settlement of the conflict.
Among those participating in the meeting on the Israeli side were Ephraim Sneh, a Labor member of the Knesset, David Kimche, a former Foreign Ministry and Mossad official, and Ze'ev Schiff, defense analyst for the daily Ha'aretz.
Representing the Palestinian Authority were Muhammad Rashid, Yasser Arafat's personal financier, and Abed Alloun, a high-ranking security service official.
The initiative for the meeting, according to the report by the Jerusalem Post's Washington correspondent Janine Zacharia, came from UCLA political scientist Steven Spiegel, a veteran Middle East analyst and associate director of the Burkle Center.
The UCLA center concentrates on projects to maintain dialogue between opposing sides when official negotiations break down. Spiegel is in charge of the center's Track Two diplomacy program.
Spiegel did not respond to The Journal's request for comments.
Key recommendations of the plan include:
- An indefinite cease-fire between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, to be monitored by a U.S.-Israel-Palestinian trilateral committee. By contrast, earlier, short-lived cease-fires were between the Palestinian Authority and terrorist groups and did not involve Israel.
- Future construction of the security fence should be "basically along the Green Line."
- Establishment of a Mideast association on terrorism, headquartered in Cairo, consisting of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, Egypt, Jordan and the Iraqi Governing Council.
- The Palestinian Authority to take practical steps to prevent terrorist groups from carrying out attacks, dismantle illegal militias, close weapon workshops and curb arms smuggling.
- Encourage Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners, dismantle road blocks and illegal outposts and raise the number of Palestinian work permits to 50,000.
Israeli and Palestinian initiators of the plan believe it has a better chance for success than earlier ones, because it is "underpinned by a regional association to address the problems of terror," Israel would be included in the cease-fire, and the presence of a trilateral monitoring committee. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Judaism's Branches Journey Together to Israel
Israel's West Coast tourism director met with rabbis on Dec. 1 to begin building buzz about next summer's broad Jewish community trip to Israel, the first local trip combining Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist congregations.
"This is the time to show unity," said Noam Matas, the Israel Ministry of Tourism's Western USA director who is leading the "Go Israel Mega Community Mission" slated for Aug. 1-10, 2004. "Only rabbis will bring us the people."
On Dec. 7, members of Denver's Jewish community will begin a 10-day, 120-person Jewish-Christian trip to Israel, similar to the ministry-driven Jewish-Christian summer 2004 trips for the Las Vegas and Phoenix Jewish communities. While the Los Angeles "Go Israel" trip will be just for Jewish travelers, organizers face difficulties in navigating issues such as how Judaism's different branches want to experience Israel and even Los Angeles' summer camp schedules.
"I just don't see them [parents] doing both -- camp and 10 days in Israel," said Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, the Orthodox Union's West Coast director, one of nine rabbis and denomination officials at the Dec. 1 meeting. "Summer planning is almost done for most families; by the end of December it's finished."
The "Go Israel" trip is expected to have about 300 L.A. Jews traveling to Israel together, and then going their separate ways except for the trip's opening and closing dinners plus a probable Knesset tour, military base visit and meetings with politicians. One trip logo employs the phrase, "For Israel, For Israelis, For Faith, For Spirit, For Good." The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is expected to endorse "Go Israel," organizers said.
"Go Israel" logistics now include sorting out specific hotels, creating a package price of about $1,400-$1,500 per person, balancing the trip's individual and group events plus announcing "Go Israel" in synagogues.
"We need a lot of lead time so that people can leave space," said Joel Baker, Pacific Southwest Region director of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Young Israel of Century City Rabbi Elazar Muskin said many locals travel to Israel. But unlike smaller Jewish communities in smaller cities, Muskin said Southern California's sprawling Jewish culture never has been able, "to get the L.A. community over to Israel as a community. We have to get over there as a community. We're behind on this, the sense that we are a Jewish community."
For more information, visit www.goisrael.com. -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer