Geneva Initiative: Jewish leaders criticise method but hint at possible support

Space Wars

20 November 2003

The World Jewish Congress on Wednesday criticised the Swiss government's role in assisting a private peace initiative between Israeli and Palestinian politicians.
But WJC leaders emphasised that while they were concerned about the method, many of their members supported elements of the initiative and they were prepared to help an attempt to pursue it with the Israeli government.

"Whilst recognising that the sentiments in promoting these accords were based on the best of motives, the reality was that by indulging in this, the government of this country was interfering in the internal affairs of a fellow democratic country," WJC Vice President Isi Liebler said.

Liebler said he had told Swiss Freign Minister Micheline Calmy Rey during a meeting in Geneva that the peace move would "best be served if such initiatives were done directly with the goverment rather than dealing with failed politicians".

The "Geneva Initiative", which is due to be officially launched in Switzerland on December 1, was forged by Israeli opposition politicians and prominent Palestinians over the past two years and has been fiercely denounced by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The Swiss government insists that it has only provided financial and logistical support for the talks, and that the move would complement the ailing international "roadmap" for peace in the Middle East.

Elan Steinberg, executive vice president of the WJC, said there were "many excellent elements in the initiative" even if there were objections to a process which involved bypassing Israeli authorities.

"We've suggested that the constructive elements in the initiative could more properly be advanced by pursuing it with members of the Israeli government, and if that happened, we would be happy to facilitate it," Steinberg told journalists.