Briefs: Congressmen fight for lawsuits against P.A.; Jewish diplomats defend Obama advisor

Congressmen Press on Lawsuits

Congressmen urged the Bush administration not to intervene in lawsuits that U.S. terror victims have won against the Palestinian Authority. In a letter Feb. 14 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a bipartisan slate of eight U.S. senators expressed opposition to “government interference with the victims’ legal rights.”

Separately, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) grilled Rice on the matter at a congressional hearing Feb. 13.

“We have a pending issue about the U.S. victims of Palestinian terrorism and so far the P.A. and the PLO have refused to pay those judgments of those U.S. victims, and recent reports indicate that the State Department may issue a statement in favor of the P.A. efforts to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments won by American victims in U.S. courts, and I would hope that that would not happen,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

A federal court in December asked the government for its opinion on a Palestinian Authority effort to put aside the awards, saying it could bankrupt the authority at a time it is facing down extremists and negotiating peace.

Families of victims killed in attacks in Israel and the West Bank areas and survivors of the attacks were in Washington this month to meet with top Bush administration lawyers and with Congress members to lobby against any intervention.

Jewish Clinton Officials Defend Malley

Five Jewish former U.S. diplomats excoriated a campaign to trash another ex-diplomat who advises Barack Obama.

“Over the past several weeks, a series of vicious, personal attacks have been launched against one of our colleagues, Robert Malley, who served as President Bill Clinton’s special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs,” says a letter circulating in the Middle East policy community, with signatories who also served under Clinton. “They claim that he harbors an anti-Israeli agenda and has sought to undermine Israel’s security. These attacks are unfair, inappropriate and wrong.”

A recent e-mail and Internet campaign claims that Malley, one of a host of former officials who have offered advice to the presidential campaign of Sen. Obama (D-Ill.), “hates” Israel and is allied with Arab radicals.

The signatories to the pro-Malley letter, three with ties to pro-Israel groups, are: Dennis Ross, a former top Middle East negotiator who also advises Obama, and who is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which leans pro-Israel; Martn Indyk, a former ambassador to Israel who now heads the Saban Institute, a peace think tank founded by Israeli American media magnate Haim Saban; Aaron David Miller, a former senior State Department adviser who subsequently directed the Seeds of Peace program that encourages dialogue between Israeli and Arab youths; Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel, and Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser.

Malley, who now works with the International Crisis Group, differs with some of the signatories over who was responsible for scuttling the 2000 Camp David Israeli-Palestinian talks, but the differences are more over degree, with no one assigning absolute blame to any party.

“Whatever differences do exist, there is no disagreement among us on one core issue that transcends partisan or other divides: That the U.S. should not and will not do anything to undermine Israel’s safety or the special relationship between our two nations,” the letter said. “We have worked with Rob closely over the years and have no doubt he shares this view and has acted consistent with it.”

Report: Israel to Declare Two Abducted Soldiers Dead

A German magazine said Israel plans to declare dead two soldiers who were abducted by Hezbollah. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s administration will soon go public with its assessments that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, two army reservists seized by Hezbollah in a July 2006 border raid, are dead, Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine reported over the weekend.

Israeli officials said there was no formal change to Jerusalem’s policy that Goldwasser and Regev should be considered alive unless proven otherwise, and the soldiers’ families dismissed the Der Spiegel report as speculative. Germany has been key to efforts to mediate an Israeli-Hezbollah prisoner swap under which the soldiers would be returned home.

Hezbollah has refused to give any information on the condition of Goldwasser or Regev. Israeli security sources believe that one or both of the men may have been killed during their kidnapping, given the amount of ordnance used against their convoy as it patrolled the Lebanese border.

Der Spiegel regularly runs stories about the Middle East and is believed to have high-placed government sources in Israel.

Germany’s Suspends Jewish Congress Membership

Another country has left the European Jewish Congress (EJC). Germany’s Central Council announced its decision Monday to suspend its membership in the EJC, becoming the fourth European Jewish organization to leave the EJC over a controversial decision made at its recent meeting in Paris.

The EJC, which has 42 member countries and is a subsidiary of the World Jewish Congress, voted 51-34 on Feb. 10 to extend terms for officers to four years from two. The extension was applied retroactively to EJC President Moshe Kantor, who was elected in June 2007, as well as to his board. Kantor is the first person from a former Eastern bloc country to lead the organization.

The German Jewish umbrella group, at its Sunday meeting, unanimously condemned the developments at the Paris convention. It announced its solidarity with the other three countries that had left the body in protest: France, Portugal and Austria. The German council condemned “the methods of EJC President Moshe Kantor” as “deeply disturbing.”

But Stefan Kramer, the council’s secretary general, said that his group’s withdrawal is a suspension, and that he’d rather see the EJC’s “success story continue” than build an alternative organization, as some other countries have proposed.

The development underscores months of tensions between some of the Western European EJC members and Kantor. The EJC issued a statement of regret after Germany’s decision, saying the EJC was working on “a conciliatory commission so that we can find the best way to bring unity back to the organization.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.