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American Jews largely support Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's realignment plan, and those who don't will be told to keep quiet so that the global Jewish community can maintain a united front, says Consul-General in New York Arye Mekel.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post in his office on Tuesday, Mekel said that American Jews who oppose Olmert's plans must respect Israeli democracy and the Israeli people's choice of a centrist government.
"Most American Jews accept this premise," said Mekel, "that in these issues of peace and security and defense and so on, it's up to the government of Israel to make these decisions. And with all due respect to our brethren in the US, it's not up to them to second guess Israeli democracy and the Israeli voter's choice."
Mekel said he had been spreading this message to many American Jewish groups lately and that to a large extent, the response had been positive. Even the Orthodox Union, which could offer the greatest American opposition to the plan, had agreed not to broadcast its disagreement to the greater Jewish community, he said.
According to Mekel, Israel's image in the American press had been positive lately, with much of the American public focused on the war in Iraq.
"When people used to say 'Middle East conflict,' you immediately thought of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now they think of Iraq," he said. "Israel is on the back burner, and this is a good thing."
He also said he felt gratified to see that in the latest crisis - the death of a Palestinian family on a Gaza beach, initially attributed to an errant Israeli missile - American journalists tended to believe the Israeli army's report that it was the result of a mine buried under the sand.
"They know they can trust us," Mekel said. "Nobody forced us to investigate. We have always been willing to admit mistakes when they happen."
Last year's disengagement allowed Israel to gain the upper hand when dealing with the media, he said. A convincing narrative emerged that was hard for journalists to dispute, he continued.
"Israel got out of Gaza. Palestinians had an opportunity to establish peace and quiet and show the world that they deserve to have a state in the West Bank as well. But instead they missed an opportunity for an opportunity. And then went on to elect a terrorist group as their government," Mekel said.
Mekel seemed less concerned about Iran, where Israel is also trying to establish a certain narrative to describe the situation. In spite of a recent thawing of the aggressive posture between America and Iran, Mekel said he felt assured that, after Olmert's recent meeting with President George Bush, Israel could trust the US not to appease the Iranians in their drive for nuclear power.
After all, Mekel said, "Iran is not an Israeli problem, it's an international problem."
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