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Mideast Hopes Tempered at ADL Meeting

May 6, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians appeared dim to members of a national Jewish group gathered for a conference Monday.

Many said they would continue to hope for peace, but their hope was also tempered by frustration and despair.

``The region has and always will be in perpetual conflict,″ said Andrew Doxer, 31, who came from Boston for the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership Conference.

Recent history, he said, ``has shown us that we have no reason to believe (coexistence) will happen in the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we should be realistic.″

Members commented during a luncheon featuring Secretary of State Colin Powell. The group also was hearing Monday from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in town for talks with President Bush and other administration officials.

Powell said that when ``ethnic and religious hatred help to fuel a conflict, it becomes all the more virulent and intractable with respect to finding a solution.″

Yet he remained optimistic that a Middle East truce can be reached.

``Despite all of the problems that I have to deal with every day, when I go home at night I reflect on a world that is still, thankfully, full of hope, full of promise,″ he said.

Not everyone shared his optimism.

Mindy Nathan, an ADL board member from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said the situation is looking increasingly hopeless.

``I don’t know how far gone all this is,″ she said.

Nathan called U.S. oil interests in the region a ``wild card in this whole mess,″ expressing concern over the influence oil has had on U.S. peacemaking efforts.

Others questioned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s ability or willingness to broker peace, showing a little more confidence in Israeli Prime Minister Sharon.

``I don’t know about Sharon, but I think that ultimately Arafat will have to be replaced,″ said Gerald Stempler, a vice chairman of the ADL, from Rockville, Md.

``If the peace terms were correct,″ he said, ``I think (Sharon) could convince his party to make peace.″

Nathan said the Palestinians deserve their sovereignty. ``Their desires need to be recognized by their own leadership,″ she said. ``They deserve that. They deserve better than they’ve gotten.″

Yahne Miorini, of McLean, Va., said while she doesn’t believe Arafat will be able to make peace, ``You can’t say, `We need to get rid of Arafat, and that will solve the problem.‴

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