on backing for P.A. funding
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Two top donors to AIPAC are raising objections over its support for a congressional letter that urges the Bush administration to increase assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
An active Republican, Adelson likened AIPAC to a friend assisting Israel's suicide.
"If someone is going to jump off a bridge, it is incumbent upon their friends to dissuade them," he told JTA. He added, "I love and admire the concept of AIPAC."
The other donor who has raised questions is Gary Erlbaum, a property developer prominent in the Philadelphia Jewish community. He said he would urge others to lobby against the letter.
"We should lobby our own congressmen never to sign the letter, unless there is clear evidence Palestinians have changed their educational system and have fought terrorism," Erlbaum said.
The letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which was to have been sent out Friday, was initiated last month by U.S. Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.). So far, 118 of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed, including 12 Jewish Democrats.
It casts increased assistance as necessary to help Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, make the changes needed to guarantee Israel's security.
"Addressing corruption and public safety in the P.A., while continuing to engage with Israel to coordinate a remittance schedule for Palestinian tax monies and to improve access and movement," the letter states, "will ensure that assistance will be effective in reviving the Palestinian economy and creating the atmosphere of hope required for the success of diplomatic efforts."
Neither Adelson nor Erlbaum would address whether AIPAC's support for the letter would influence how they donate to the group. Speaking generally, Adelson said, "I don’t continue to support organizations that help friends committing suicide just because they say they want to jump."
An AIPAC spokeswoman confirmed that both men are supporters of the organization and described Adelson as a "major" donor.
Adelson, with an estimated net worth of $26.5 billion, often contributes in the millions to favored Jewish causes. He donated $25 million last year to Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, and gave birthright israel -- the program that flies Jewish youth to Israel for free tours -- $55 million over the past two years.
...Adelson, who recently launched a giveaway tabloid in Israel, said his research showed that vast majorities of Israelis opposed the concessions Olmert is reportedly considering, particularly sharing Jerusalem.
"Governments have to listen to the people -- of course, Olmert was duly elected, but promises made" on not dividing Jerusalem "are being neglected," Adelson said.
Rice has acknowledged pressing the sides toward a solution before her boss leaves the Oval Office. Still, Adelson would not criticize the Bush administration.
"The Bush administration and Condoleezza Rice can't be holier than the pope if the government of Israel wants to accept the destruction of Israel," he said.
Adelson and Erlbaum are also donors to the Zionist Organization of America, which has driven a campaign against any further funding for the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.
"It is high time to condition any further U.S. aid on the Palestinians arresting terrorists, outlawing terrorist groups and ending incitement against Israel in their media, schools and speeches," ZOA president Morton Klein said. "Otherwise, the message is sent that the U.S. is not serious about the Palestinians changing their actions."