Briefs: Condi tries to strike Mideast balance, Chelsea Clinton gets Shabbat-experienced

Rice: U.S. Will Keep Mideast Strategic Balance

The United States intends to help preserve the strategic balance between Israel and the Arabs, Condoleezza Rice said. Washington’s decision to boost defense aid to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia by $60 billon over the next decade will not blunt Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region, the U.S. secretary of state made clear Tuesday.

“There isn’t anything new in the United States working with its allies for security cooperation,” Rice told reporters accompanying her on a visit to the Middle East. “We are also determined to maintain the balances — the military and strategic balances — within the region that we have been committed to as well.”

The Bush administration wants to bolster allied Gulf Arab states against an ascendant Iran. Israel, which has been rebuilding its own armed forces since last year’s Lebanon war, had voiced concern over the planned multibillion-dollar arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicated Sunday that Israel was satisfied by Washington’s intentions.

France Urged to Move on Holocaust Archives

Members of Congress urged France’s foreign minister to ratify amendments necessary to open Holocaust archives. Led by Reps. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) and Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), 34 members of Congress sent a letter to Bernard Kouchner on July 30 urging France to ratify the necessary amendments to the Bonn Accords, which in turn would speed the process of opening the Bad Arolsen Holocaust archives. The International Commission of the International Tracing Service agreed on May 15 to begin transfer of Holocaust-related documents to institutions such as Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Before that can happen, the 11 countries involved in the 1955 Bonn Agreement must all ratify an amendment allowing the transfer.

Thus far, eight of the 11 countries have passed the proper legislation; France, Greece and Italy have not. Legislation related to the amendment has been drafted and is awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers before it can be sent to the French Chamber of Parliament for ratification.

New P.A. Plank Omits ‘Armed Struggle’

For the first time a political platform proposed by the Palestinian Authority does not call for “armed struggle.” The plank presented last Friday by P.A. Prime Minister Salaam Fayad instead cited “national opposition to the occupation.” It includes language regarding the “attainment of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement consisting of pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem as the capital of both states, the honoring of past agreements between the two” and a resolution to the refugee problem based on U.N. resolutions, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Israeli Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Israel should try to work with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the more moderate Fatah party, as Israel has a partner for peace for “the first time in seven years.” Israel has yet to issue an official reply — officials have not received the new platform in writing, nor has it been voted on by the Palestinian Parliament.

The platform also declares the P.A.’s intention to exert its rule over the Gaza Strip, which was taken over last month by Hamas. Abbas vowed that an internal 200-page report detailing the failures of officials in handling the Hamas takeover would be implemented immediately. Hamas has vowed to continue its armed resistance against Israel. Abbas told reporters that he hoped to broker peace within a year and has the support of President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Brazilian Jewish Crash Victim Mourned

Brazilian Jews are mourning a Jewish victim of this month’s deadly plane crash in the country. Rebeca Haddad, 14, apparently was the only Jew among the more than 200 people killed July 17 when a TAM Airlines plane crashed and exploded after skidding off the runway at Brazil’s busiest airport in Sao Paulo. Haddad had been on her way to enjoy a school vacation. Before boarding, she told her father, “I love you so much. Thank you for giving me this trip.”

Like many Brazilians, Haddad was a fervent soccer fan. Her luggage included five shirts of her favorite team, Gremio. A major team in the Brazilian league, Gremio honored Haddad’s memory with a minute of silence during a recent match.

An official from Brazil’s B’nai B’rith took part in an ecumenical ceremony in memory of the victims held near the accident site several days after the crash. Haddad hailed from Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, which has some 12,000 Jews.

U.K. to Deem Anti-Semitism a Hate Crime

British police will begin recording anti-Semitic crimes as racist attacks starting next year. The government also pledged additional funds to monitor anti-Semitic incidents in the country.

“Anti-Semitism has not been taken as seriously as other forms of hatred in some parts of our society,” Iain Wright, the parliamentary under secretary of state for communities and local government, said during a July 19 discussion of Britain’s All Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism.

Wright also reiterated the government’s opposition to an academic boycott of Israel, calling it “anti-Jewish in principle.” The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism was established in November 2005 to investigate the nature and extent of anti-Semitism in Britain and to make recommendations to address the problem.

The report is available online at

Chelsea Clinton Learning About Judaism

Chelsea Clinton reportedly attended a Shabbat dinner in the hopes of learning more about Judaism. Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), is dating Marc Mezvinsky, the Jewish son of two former members of Congress.

According to a story in Tuesday’s New York Times, Clinton visited the parents of a Jewish friend in an effort to learn more about Mezvinsky’s faith. Clinton and Mezvinsky, a banker with the New York firm Goldman Sachs, have known each other since they were teenagers and are both graduates of Stanford.

Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.