Nation & World Briefs

Investor Buys Israeli Company

American tycoon Warren Buffett invested $4 billion in an Israeli manufacturing firm. In what Israeli media hailed as the “deal of the decade,” Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway corporation bought an 80 percent interest in Iscar, an international metalworks consortium based in Tefen, Israel, over the weekend. The purchase propelled the Wertheimer family, which founded Iscar, to the top of the list of Israel’s richest people. It was also a tax windfall for the new Olmert government. Buffett, known as one of the world’s top investors, was quoted as saying he may seek further investment opportunities in the Jewish state.

Israel Saves Abbas?

Israel reportedly saved Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from a Hamas assassination plot. Britain’s Sunday Times reported that Abbas recently canceled a trip to the Gaza Strip after being notified by Israel that he and an allied leader of his Fatah faction, Mohammed Dahlan, could be targeted by the radical Islamic group for assassination. Israel and the Palestinian Authority had no immediate comment. There have been mounting tensions in the West Bank and Gaza since Hamas ousted Fatah in January elections. Earlier this month, Palestinian Authority officials said a tunnel had been discovered under Abbas’ official residence in Gaza, but offered no explanation. The Palestinian Authority president is based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Olmert to Address Congress

Ehud Olmert will address both houses of the U.S. Congress. The rare joint session, scheduled for May 24, will cap Olmert’s first visit to the United States as Israeli prime minister. He will also meet with President Bush. Olmert is seeking U.S. backing for his plans to unilaterally withdraw from portions of the West Bank.

Police, Settlers Clash in West Bank

Israeli police scuffled with settlers holed up inside a disputed property in Hebron. Paramilitary police on Sunday broke into a three-story home near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of the West Bank city to enforce a High Court eviction order against two settler families inside. The settlers, who moved in last month, say they bought the property from its Palestinian owners. Palestinians dispute this claim. Before the eviction was completed, settlers and police scuffled near the building. Seventeen policemen and soldiers were injured and 19 settlers arrested.

Nun Who Fought Anti-Semitism Dies

Sister Rose Thering, a nun who campaigned against anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church, died Saturday at 85. Thering examined how Catholic educational materials contained anti-Semitic passages for her doctoral dissertation, which she completed in 1957. The Vatican used her work when it issued its landmark 1965 declaration that absolved Jews of collective responsibility for the death of Jesus. She was the subject of a 2005 film, “Sister Rose’s Passion,” that was nominated for an Academy Award in the short documentary category.

Sweden Offers Hamas Visa

Sweden broke with E.U. policy by granting a visa to a Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister from Hamas. Minister for Refugees Atef Adwan was given a visa to attend a weekend conference in Sweden, the first time an E.U. member state has allowed entry to a member of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority since the terrorist group took power in March. Israeli officials were infuriated. France and Belgium had refused visa applications from other Hamas officials after E.U. leaders decided last month that there would be no dialogue with Hamas until it recognizes Israel and gives up terrorism. The Swedish visa will allow Adwan to travel freely in 15 European countries, and comes shortly after Sweden refused to take part in an international military exercise because Israel was participating.

Republican Chair Booed at AJCommittee Event

The chairman of the Republican Party was booed at an American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) event over comments on Iraq. Ken Mehlman, who is Jewish, said Iraq posed less of a challenge now than under Saddam Hussein. Mehlman was otherwise politely received when he spoke recently at the AJCommittee’s 100th anniversary celebrations in Washington, and he got warm applause when he said the Bush administration would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear bomb and always would stand by Israel. The room burst into applause, however, when AJCommittee board member Edith Everett asked Mehlman to “take a message” to President Bush to stop linking Israel and Iran.

“It does not help Israel and it does not help American Jews to appear to be stimulators of any action against Iran,” Everett said. She added that “it’s easy to understand why Iran is not worried about us” because Iraq is consuming so many U.S. resources. Mehlman replied by acknowledging that Iraq was a “challenge,” but claimed it’s “less of a challenge than when Saddam Hussein was in power.” The room filled with boos and hisses.

Albright: Lobby Paper ‘Highly Overstated’

A paper alleging that a powerful pro-Israel lobby controls U.S. Middle East policy is “highly overstated,” Madeleine Albright said. The former U.S. secretary of state is launching a new book about U.S. failures in Middle East policy. Appearing at a Council of Foreign Relations event in New York City last week, Albright was asked about the paper written by two foreign policy academics, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University.

The paper was “highly overstated,” she said. “It’s very easy to get on this tack all of a sudden that it’s some kind of an overly powerful Jewish lobby. There are other lobbies that are very strong, and Washington is full of lobbyists. So I would not, in fact, stress that as much as I would stress the fact that the U.S. does have an indissoluble relationship with Israel that is based on history and culture.”

Annan Wants Full U.N. Membership for Israel

Kofi Annan said he wants to see Israel’s unqualified membership in the United Nations. Addressing the American Jewish Committee’s 100th anniversary dinner last week, the U.N. secretary-general noted Israel’s recent membership in the Western Europeans and Others Group, which granted Israel access to certain U.N. bodies that previously had been closed to it because of Muslim opposition. “I hope that within my lifetime, just as in this country, where Jews are accepted without question as full citizens by all their fellow citizens, so Israel will be accepted without question as a member by the whole family of nations,” Annan said to applause.

Senate Slashes Egypt Aid

The U.S. Senate slashed 10 percent of domestic assistance to Egypt. The $47 million cut passed last week in a little-noticed voice vote on an amendment to a foreign operations appropriation that allocated $35 million to famine assistance in Africa and $12 million for disaster relief in the United States, Guatemala and Pakistan. The total was drawn from the domestic aid package to Egypt. A number of legislators want to cut assistance to Egypt because of its failure to introduce promised democratic reforms. The Bush administration opposes the cuts, noting Egypt’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and a Bush ally in the U.S. House of Representatives said he would restore the assistance when the foreign operations bill goes to conference.

“Egypt is a strategic ally. We shouldn’t be doing something like this right now,” Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz), chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee, told National Journal. Egypt gets $1.3 billion in military aid and just under $500 million in domestic assistance stemming from its 1978 peace accord with Israel.

Merkel: German Jews a ‘Joy’

Germany’s growing Jewish community is a source of “great joy,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “We are able to note with great joy that Jewish schools are thriving, synagogues are being built and, as of next fall, rabbis will be ordained,” Merkel said last week, addressing the American Jewish Committee’s 100th anniversary celebrations in Washington.

Germany’s Jewish community, which Merkel estimated at 200,000, is the only one outside Israel undergoing substantial growth, mainly because of immigration from the former Soviet Union. Merkel also said her country would not tolerate a nuclear weapon for Iran.

Briefs Courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency