| September 21, 1997
Daily News (Los Angeles)
Dr. Irving Moskowitz's week in Jerusalem couldn't have had
many more milestones. He moved Jews into an all-Arab neighborhood.
He cemented his hero status among the radical-right settler
And he made a lot of Israelis think it is time to limit
the influence of American Jews who ``meddle'' in Israel's
As the crisis boiled around Moskowitz's transplanting of
Jews into an area of Jerusalem that Palestinians claim as
part of their future capital, Israeli politicians began
questioning the Miami Beach physician's ties to Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and the larger issue of diaspora Jews'
role in politics in Jerusalem.
Left-wing Israeli politicians began demanding closer scrutiny
of campaign finances. While the total amount of donations
to political parties is made public in Israel, individual
donations - especially those funneled through third-party
organizations - remain secret.
Yossi Sarid, the head of the dovish Meretz Party, asked
the state comptroller to investigate Moskowitz's donations
to Netanyahu. Sarid said Moskowitz, 69, gave ``large sums''
to the prime minister.
And debate has been strong over whether Moskowitz has crossed
a line with his activist stance. Meir Shalev, one of Israel's
most prominent authors, called it ``outrageous'' that Moskowitz
could create political turmoil without being a citizen of
``This is an American citizen doing this, and it's not
only interfering with our business, it is really poking
into our flesh, playing with our lives.''
American Jews becoming involved in Israeli politics is,
of course, an old story. Many in the United States and Israel
strongly argue that a close relationship ultimately strengthens
the Jewish state and strengthens the diaspora's commitment.
But Netanyahu, the most American of any prime minister
in Israel's 49 years, an MIT graduate, diplomat at the embassy
in Washington and the United Nations, has elevated the American-Israeli
connection to new heights. Over the last two decades, he
has shown extraordinary talent for winning over conservative
American Jewry's rich and famous.
Moskowitz's role in this week's crisis in Israeli-Palestinian
relations brought even greater attention. A 69-year-old
multimillionaire who contributes to right-wing Israeli causes,
Moskowitz moved Jews under the cover of darkness into a
house he owns in the all-Arab Ras al-Amud neighborhood.
Money and influence
The questions now bubbling to the surface in Israel concern
money and influence, almost a mirror image of questions
dogging President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. How
much did Netanyahu raise from North American donors for
his campaign? How much did Moskowitz donate? Were promises
given in exchange for donations? Did Moskowitz win assurances
of favorable treatment for his projects in Jerusalem?
There is little firm evidence of any influence-peddling.
Moskowitz denies any wrongdoing. The prime minister, through
his spokesman, strongly denies any deal-making as well.
The allegations involve Moskowitz and one of his chief
projects in Israel, the Aterit Cohanim yeshiva in the Old
City of Jerusalem. Moskowitz and other Aterit Cohanim representatives,
Likud Party insiders have told The Miami Herald, had long
pressed Netanyahu to open the Western Wall tunnel. Netanyahu
gave the order nearly a year ago, igniting three days of
riots that left 80 people dead.
Last year, Moskowitz, in his only public comments on the
issue, told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper that he had given
``not much, and in the framework of the law, from my private
funds'' to Netanyahu.
But Moskowitz reportedly also has given funds to Netanyahu's
Likud Party and helped start the Third Way party, which
is headed by Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani.
It was Kahalani who worked out a compromise deal this week
with Moskowitz to replace Jewish families at the Ras al-Amud
house with seminary students.
A top aide to Netanyahu - who characterized the prime minister's
fund-raising abilities in the United States as ``amazing,
simply amazing'' - said that Netanyahu's relationship with
Moskowitz may now be over.
``I don't think Netanyahu agreed with people who were maligning
Moskowitz as coming from Miami to create problems,'' the
aide said. ``But when you take power, responsibility goes
with it, and sometimes you have to part ways with people
in the past.''
Drawing the line
But where does Israel draw the line on U.S. Jews' political
involvement? Opinions differ widely.
Next to Moskowitz's house in Ras al-Amud, Galia Golan,
a Peace Now activist who attended schools in her youth in
Miami Beach, said Friday she had no problem with American
Jews expressing their political views in Israel. She said
that since the United States gives vast sums of private
donations and public funds - $3.1 billion annually in taxpayer
money alone - ``American Jews have every right to take part
in the national dialogue.
``This is not the United States, which sees itself as representing
the free world,'' said Golan, a Hebrew University political
science professor. ``We have a bond with Jews the world
over and they have a right to say what they think.''
But, she said, ``I do have a problem with what is done
with the money once it gets here. What it goes for can be
very dangerous. What Moskowitz is doing with his buying
of property in east Jerusalem is creating time bombs that
are going to explode.''
Some leftists, though, say Moskowitz has no right to get
involved in politics because he doesn't live in Jerusalem
and works outside the government. For these people, Miami
became a dirty word this week.
``He should go back to Miami,'' said Anat Hoffman, a Jerusalem
City Council member. ``He would never have the guts to play
the games in Miami that he is playing here. He is essentially
throwing matches all around, and then, poof, he will go
back on the plane and leave us with the fire.''
Writer Shalev said Netanyahu should have dealt with Moskowitz
like the state dealt with a Miami Beach troublemaker nearly
30 years ago: Meyer Lansky, well-known gangster, was politely
asked to leave.
A religious right-wing activist, Ellen Horowitz of Jerusalem,
also found fault with Moskowitz this week - but on the grounds
that he was causing trouble for a right-wing prime minister.
But Horowitz believed that some of the anger toward Moskowitz
was connected to Israelis' growing disenchantment with being
dependent on outsiders.
Often, she noted, outsiders come with extreme ideological
views and deliberately set off storms.
``When you live in the Middle East, you have a certain
responsibility,'' Horowitz said. ``You can do a lot of wonderful
things, and a lot of damaging things. One person can draw
a pig - and it's not a big deal anywhere else in the world
- but here it is a big deal. You cannot take unilateral
action on this powder keg that we're sitting on.''
This summer, a young woman drew a picture depicting the
prophet Mohammed as a pig and posted it throughout Hebron,
setting off riots. The woman was a new Israeli, a Russian
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