Benjamin Netanyahu's probable election victory did not surprise members of the local Jewish community as much as it set them thinking about peace and tolerance.
"There is a strong tradition of religious pluralism in the Jewish community in America and the religious parties did very well in this election," said Arthur Abramson, head of the Baltimore Jewish Council.
"I'm hearing concerns about how it will affect tolerance of [non-Orthodox] Jews in Israel. But I don't want to digress; the key issue in this election is war and peace."
Rabbi Moishe Heinemann, who heads local Orthodoxy's Agudath Israel congregation on Park Heights Avenue, said that the mere election of Netanyahu, who was passionately supported by most Orthodox Jews for his stand against trading land for peace, does not guarantee anything.
"Everything is in the hands of God. He is directing this world. If he decided that Netanyahu should be the winner, than we accept it as the better thing," said Heinemann. Robert O. Freedman, a professor of Israeli politics and acting president of Baltimore Hebrew University, said the results left him with concern about relations between Jews and Arabs.
"The pessimist would say that if Netanyahu goes ahead with his pledge to build more settlements on the West Bank, it could be the death knell for peace," said Friedman. "I can't think of anything that would more quickly anger the Palestinians, other Arabs and the United States. The American reaction is split between Jews who want peace as a priority and those who want to hold onto the West Bank because they believe God gave it to the Jewish people."
"The real bottom line is that Israel has no consensus on any issue here," said Rabbi Mark Loeb, who heads the Baltimore chapter of the Israeli Peace Now movement. "It means there's work to be done. You have to wage peace like you wage war. There's no acceptable alternative to peace."
To all of which, Rabbi Herman Neuberger, president of the Ner Israel Rabbinical College, says: "We should not presume that people in Israel don't know what they're doing. Why should we, who live in the security of America, tell the Israelis how they should live?"
Pub Date: 5/31/96