Although peace between Israel and its neighbors ranks high in John Kerry’s book released yesterday, many Israeli politicians have been voicing concerns that a Kerry presidency could damage the region.

The Democratic nominee and his running mate, John Edwards, yesterday released “Our Plan for America,” in which Israel is discussed in the first chapter. “We will ensure that under all circumstances Israel retains the qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense,” the book says.

The authors promise “genuine resolve and direct personal involvement to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” a dig at President Bush, whom the Democrats have accused of neglecting Middle East peace efforts.

Kerry and Edwards also reiterate recognition of some Israeli claims to the West Bank and rejection of a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and say they would work to end Palestinian incitement against Israel.

But many Israeli and American Jewish leaders are expressing concern that a Kerry administration will cause more violence in the Middle East. They say they are worried about Kerry’s statements of coordinating American foreign policy with the Europeans, and are disturbed by his appointment of several former Clinton Mideast policy directors as advisers, particularly former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.

Many blame Clinton’s failed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – which sought Israeli territorial concessions for promises of peace by Arafat and ignored indications of growing Palestinian militancy and violations of security reform agreements – for partially causing the current intifada.

Indyk, who helped devise the 1993 Oslo Accords, was a driving force behind Clinton’s assessment of Arafat as a statesman, and urged Clinton to accept Arafat as the legitimate ruler of the Palestinians.

For the past year, Indyk has been campaigning to dispatch U.S. troops to intervene in the Middle East conflict, worrying many of Israel’s leaders, who don’t want to see the IDF faced with having to confront U.S. troops.

“Indyk managed to help Arafat wrest complete control over the Palestinian people through deceit and subterfuge. And now, if he gets his way, American troops may find themselves in the middle of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – providing cover for Hamas and Palestinian Jihad,” wrote David Bedein, bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency.

“The very mention of Indyk sends shudders down the spine of senior members of the Israel defense and foreign policy establishment,” wrote Bedein.

Some in Israel were also upset that Kerry allowed former President Jimmy Carter, who many Jews feel has taken a consistently pro-Palestinian line since being voted out of office in 1980, to speak at last week’s Democratic National Convention, where he linked the Bush administration’s policy toward Israel to anti-American sentiment.

“Violence has gripped the Holy Land, with the region increasingly swept by anti-American passions,” Carter told the convention in a prime-time speech many Democrats said marked his revival as a central figure in the party.

A prominent American Jewish leader told WorldNetDaily, “Kerry’s new book rehashes all the old falsehoods of the Oslo era that ended up bringing nothing but disaster to the region. We cannot afford anther Clinton in the White House, and since Kerry is surrounding himself with Clinton lackeys, he’s got us all worried.”

Several Democrats are accusing Sharon of playing favorites with Bush and making it difficult for the Democrats to lure Jewish voters. They say the Israeli prime minister is going out of his way to praise Bush to the American media, and expressed disappointment Sharon wasn’t able to meet Kerry during his last trip to Washington in April. In fact, the two men have never spoken.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose statements are considered closely aligned with Sharon’s policy, even recently told a meeting of prominent American Jews that he prefers Bush over Kerry.

The prime minister’s office says it has no plans to interfere with U.S. elections, just as America should not be involved in Israeli elections. Sharon has said he would meet with Kerry if the presidential nominee travels to Israel.

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