Isi Leibler – the former Chairman of the Governing Board and Senior Vice President of the World Jewish Congress – has harshly criticized Ronald Lauder, the current WJC head, for holding a meeting together with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator.
At the meeting, which also included Latin Jewish American Congress President Jack Terpins, the two Jewish leaders stressed the urgency of achieving a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Terpins described to Abbas the positive level of coexistence between the Arab and Jewish communities in Latin America, where they apparently can often be found living alongside each other in harmony, citing that situation as a potential role model for the Middle East. “Jewish and Palestinian Diaspora communities have a role to play in fostering better understanding,” Lauder told Abbas. Terpins added, “Peace, unlike war, cannot be declared unilaterally; it has to be agreed between the parties. Both communities in the Diaspora – Jewish and Palestinian – must work together to achieve a better understanding.”
In an op-ed this week in the Jerusalem Post, Leibler wrote that the Jewish leaders did not notify the appropriate Israeli officials in advance of the meeting, and that Lauder rejected pleas from colleagues to consult with Israeli government authorities. Leibler further scored Lauder for not apprising senior colleagues at the World Jewish Congress before making his public statements. “The timing of a meeting between the head of an organization purporting to represent world Jewry and Abbas – who refuses to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – was certainly questionable,” Leibler commented. He then laid out a litany of points that Lauder should have directed to Abbas, including the need for the PA to resume peace negotiations without preconditions, a demand to end the venomous anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic incitement being promoted throughout Palestinian society, and a challenge to the Palestinian leader’s determination to ensure that a future Palestinian state is Judenrein (free of Jews). Leibler further suggested that Lauder would have done well to protest against the recent state television broadcast in which the most senior mufti in the Palestinian Authority, personally appointed by Abbas, called on the faithful to go out and kill Jews in order to expedite the “Islamic Resurrection.”
“It is also utterly incomprehensible how a Jewish spokesman can relate to Palestinian emigrants as a Diaspora,” Leibler fumed, “implicitly comparing them to Jews who retained their identity for more than 2,000 years despite enduring persecutions and expulsion from their ancestral homeland. Aside from being an utterly bogus analogy, in the context of current demands by Abbas to accept the right of return of millions of Arab refugees and their descendants to Israel, it was simply bizarre.”
In his piece, Leibler admitted that he had strongly supported Lauder’s candidacy for the WJC presidency, explaining that he had done so because Lauder had financed the revival of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and had been an active supporter of Israel for many years. And Leibler praises the WJC head for several positive initiatives following his takeover. But the former WJC Chairman claims that since Lauder had a personal falling-out with Netanyahu, he has increasingly taken on left-wing positions that call for more flexibility in dealing with the Palestinians and run counter to the efforts of the Prime Minister.
“The World Jewish Congress stands at a crossroads,” Leibler concluded. “Either Lauder charts a constructive program of global Jewish activism in consultation with his colleagues, or the organization will inevitably implode in the process – and likely inflict considerable damage on the Jewish people.”