STEVEN WINDMUELLER, executive director of the Community Relations Council of Jewish Federation Council: The established institutions of the Jewish community have been reluctant because the emphasis is to move away from domestic Arab-Jewish matters that pertain to the community and move right to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It doesn't have any potential for resolution that way. Do you create expectations that can't be fulfilled?
DR. SABRI El FARRA, a prominent Palestinian active on the boards of several Arab-American organizations: What divides Arabs and Jews is not local problems. I take issue when it is said, (as a criticism) "It turns to politics." It has to. Nobody is happy with the policy in the Middle East. A determined effort has to come from the leadership to bring the groups together. It should be encouraged for whatever results can come out of it.
SOUAD CANO, national board member and president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the National Assn. of Arab-Americans: If there is any hope in the Middle East for a peaceful settlement, it's going to have to come not from the governments, but from the people. I really do believe now we've come to the point where we've got to do something to save lives. Also, I do think we have a chance to change the American point of view.
NEIL SANDBERG, Western regional director of the American Jewish Committee: The question is how much influence American-based ethnic groups have on political forces in the Middle East. American Jews, who are supportive of Israel, have difficulty getting Israel to pay serious attention to them. They say we ought to be living there if we want to influence affairs. We don't have the same prerogatives.
Also it would help if some of the Arab nations in the Middle East would sit down and talk to Israel. That they don't carries over to America and creates an underlying pessimism. Having said all that, it's important to make a beginning at all levels. We ought to begin to talk to Arabs of good will and understand each other.
ESTHER SHAPIRO, executive director, Pacific Southwest region of the American Jewish Congress: The long-range impact of Arab-Jewish dialogue in resolving conflicts in the Middle East is probably negligible. Nonetheless, they serve a useful function in erasing stereotypes and opening lines of communication.
JAMES ABOUREZK, chairman and founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee: I view these efforts at Arab-Jewish dialogue as no more than time fillers. The real effort has to be made with the Israeli government. Jewish groups ought not to talk to us. They ought to talk to the Israeli government. What the hell is there for us to talk about? We don't have any influence on the U.S. government or the Israeli government. They do. If it's a matter of meeting to cool things off between the two communities, I'm all for that. We'll talk to anyone. But if anybody thinks that it is going to bring about a peaceful solution in the Middle East, they're deluding themselves.