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U.S. Jews Laud Withdrawal Vote

October 28, 2004 | 8:00 pm

American Jewish organizations rushed Tuesday afternoon to express support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan.

Sharon's initiative was "not an easy decision, but we fully share the Israeli government's view that it was the right decision to safeguard the future of the State of Israel," the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David Harris, said in a statement.

"We salute Prime Minister Sharon's bold initiative and pledge our public support for the implementation of Israel's disengagement from Gaza," leaders of the Anti-Defamation League said.

In a more tepid statement, the chairman and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed "support for the Knesset vote approving the Gaza disengagement plan," noting that "further votes will be necessary for various stages of implementation."

"We hope that all parties will be able to come together to work on implementation and to minimize divisiveness," James Tisch and Malcolm Hoenlein said.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said that Tuesday's developments were tough.

"This policy not only rewards and appeases terrorists, but the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza will make it much easier for terrorists to set up bomb factories and bring weapons into Gaza, including even more dangerous and accurate missiles that will threaten major cities within Israel," Klein said.

Nearly all the Jewish groups issuing statements noted the impending anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, urging Israeli leaders to summon courage for peace with the Palestinians -- and urging opponents to eschew violence.

"As we approach the ninth anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, we are again reminded of the urgent need for civility. We join with the vast majority of Israelis in urging respect for the lawful decisions of Israel's elected leaders," Harris said.

Applauding Israel for reaching a "historic milestone on its decades-long quest for peace and security," the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) also recalled Rabin's memory.

In commemorating Rabin, the group said that "today's vote motivates us even more to do all we can to support his unfulfilled quest for two states living side-by-side in peace and security," JCPA Chair Marie Abrams said.

Americans for Peace Now took its kudos a step further, saying the Knesset move was precedent setting.

"Approval of this disengagement plan sets an important precedent for the evacuation of other settlements in the years ahead," President and CEO Debra DeLee said. -- Rachel Pomerance, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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