Israel divides US Jews

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The Independent Online
Only weeks from the US presidential elections, which constituency will be watching the peace summit with more fascination than any other? And to which group will the White House be looking for its reaction to the outcome? The answer, on both counts, is the American Jewish community.

It would seem to be a risky tactic for President Bill Clinton to invite Benjamin Netanyahu to a meeting at which he is likely not just to get the blame for last week's rioting but also to come under pressure to offer concessions. While the right-wing elements of American Jewry, whose strongholds are in the eastern boroughs of New York, will inevitably condemn Mr Clinton, most American Jews might support him.

Yesterday US Arab and Jewish groups urged the White House to send a strong signal to negotiators to return to the Middle East peace process

And the White House might take heart from an advertisment placed yesterday by the Israel Peace Forum that claimed that, over and above any loyalty to Mr Netanyahu, most American Jews are more interested in saving the peace process.

The advertisement cites an opinion poll suggesting that 81 per cent of American Jews support the peace process as launched by the Oslo agreements. The same poll suggested that 67 per cent of American Jews favour US aid to the Palestinian Authority and that 63 per cent support the creation of a Palestinian state.

"That is why President Clinton's initiative to safeguard and sustain the peace process, sealed on the White House lawn three years ago, is so crucial," the forum said. While liberal Jews in the US were widely disappointed by the election of Mr Netanyahu last May, most have opted to give him the benefit of the doubt as regards commitment to the peace process. After last week, the same Jews, who are overwhelmingly well disposed to Mr Clinton, might not object to some tougher-than-usual treatment of the Israeli leader in the White House.