BONN, Germany -- American Jewish leaders, rebuffed by the Bush administration, have asked Germany to break with U.S. policy and provide billions of dollars in aid to Israel to resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union.
"We would like you to act on the request consistent with the humanitarian commitment and not depending on a particular decision of the United States," Malcolm Hoenlein, head of an umbrella organization of Jewish groups, said he told German officials. Germany should "not link a humanitarian issue with a political issue, as the administration does," he said.
The Bush administration has linked $10 billion in loan guarantees to an Israeli freeze on Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir rejected last week. The Bush administration last year had said consideration of the loan guarantees would be postponed until after Middle East peace talks had begun.
In a less noted development, Israel last year requested $6 billion from Germany, half in the form of loan guarantees, half in other forms of aid, Mr. Hoenlein said. He said that Germany last year had offered $600 million in loan guarantees, which Israel rejected as insufficient.
German officials said that Chancellor Helmut Kohl's government has changed its position and opposes aid because it might undermine the Middle East peace negotiations and would run counter to U.S. policy.
"We are in a position where the considerations of international law, the overall picture in the Near East, and the alliance with the United States all point to the same conclusion," said a senior aide to Kohl, who spoke on the condition he not be identified.
Mr. Hoenlein and 12 others from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations made their plea during a dinner Tuesday night with senior Kohl aides and in a series of meetings Tuesday and yesterday with top officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Chancellery.
"We have the Congress with us -- three-quarters of the Senate and a majority of the House," Mr. Hoenlein said. "They are only two people" blocking the loans, he said, referring to President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker.