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U.S. Jewish Leaders Express Concern on Criticism of Israel

December 25, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — A group of American Jewish leaders met with Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead on Thursday to express "very deep concern" over U.S. criticism of Israel's treatment of demonstrators in Gaza and on the West Bank.

Morris B. Abram, an Atlanta lawyer who led the delegation, said the Arab protesters were not college campus demonstrators. "They come with Molotov cocktails and gasoline bombs," he said. "They come not to make a point but to overthrow" Israeli rule.

"It was a valuable exchange of viewpoints," department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said. "We are always happy to have their views."

But she said the State Department had not changed its mind about Israel's use of force against Arab protesters. "We will do what we feel is appropriate and called for," Oakley said. Two weeks of rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has left 21 people dead.

Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, described U.S. criticism this week of Israel as "a bump in the road."

He said Whitehead had assured him "the special relationship will continue and endure" between the United States and Israel.

The Reagan Administration abstained this week in the U.N. Security Council and allowed passage of a resolution strongly deploring Israeli "policies and practices which violate the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories."

The State Department and the White House on Tuesday urged Israel to end "harsh security measures" in Gaza and on the West Bank and reminded Israel that the world has never fully accepted its 20 year-old occupation of the territories Egypt and Jordan lost in the 1967 Six-Day War.

On Wednesday, Oakley read a statement telling Israel that "order should be maintained without the use of legal force. Techniques are available to accomplish this, and we hope they will be employed."

Asked to respond to criticism that Israel should have used riot control techniques instead of bullets, Abram said, "We have no doubt that there have been individual incidents in which a better trained force could have done the job with some degree of improvement."

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