Knesset confirms Dichter as home front chief

Israel’s Knesset approved the appointment of former lawmaker Avi Dichter as home front defense minister.

The 41-26 vote on Thursday came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet unanimously approved the appointment.

Dichter had resigned from the opposition Kadima Party and the Knesset on Tuesday in order to join the government in a ministerial position. The former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service and ex-minister of internal security had been offered the position hours before in a late-night meeting with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

He replaces Matan Vilnai, who was named Israel’s ambassador to China. Dichter will be replaced in the Knesset by Israeli-Arab lawmaker Ahmad Dabah.

Dichter joins the government as an independent, not affiliated with any political party, and said he is not trying to split the beleaguered Kadima, the largest opposition party.

Dichter also will join the inner security cabinet and could cast the deciding vote on an Iran strike; its eight members reportedly are split on the issue.

Hamas chief Meshal to step down

Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal will soon step down from his position because of term limits, a Hamas official said.

Meshaal, who assumed his position in 1996, must leave at the end of his term because he is limited to the two terms he has already served, an unnamed senior Hamas official told the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency. He has run Hamas from his headquarters in Damascus, Syria, since 1997 following an Israeli assassination attempt.

Meshaal’s deputy, Mousa Abu Marzouq, is expected to succeed him.

The official also told Ma’an that discussions over implementing a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement are not moving forward due to low confidence between the two factions. He also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Fatah Party, is “distracted” by the current peace talks with Israel.

Freeman affair sheds sunshine on ‘night flower’ Steve Rosen

The night flower is back, and he’sliking the light.

Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC foreign policy chief, is at the center of Middle East policy attention nearly four years after his indictment on charges of handling classified information. He wrote a blog post highlighting past controversial statements by Charles “Chas” Freeman, the putative chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Rosen then alerted reporters to the posting, and that launched a process that ultimately led Freeman to reject the job.

Freeman’s defenders, who thought his tough views on Israel’s settlement policies would bring a breath of fresh air in the new Obama administration, were appalled.
“A newly elected President of the United States vs. a guy on trial for espionage,” MJ Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum wrote on his blog at Talking Points Memo. “A new definition of chutzpah is born!”

Rosen is charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, but not for spying. The section cited in the indictment deals only with handling sensitive information.

Rosen is no stranger to charges of chutzpah—and worse. But when he was one of the top figures at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he made a point of wielding his brashness away from the limelight. Every conversation, every lunch with a journalist would begin with a perfunctory “This is all off the record.”

His reputed motto, recorded by Jeffrey Goldberg in a 2005 New Yorker profile, was “A lobby is like a night flower: It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”

No longer.

Rosen says he wrote the “night flower” memo 30 years ago, before he joined AIPAC, and now disavows it. His experience with AIPAC has taught him that it is necessary to lobby in the open, he says.

And now he has plunged himself into blogging at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, and says he welcomes the work after four years of languishing in the limbo of pre-trial motions. His trial is set to begin June 2.

“They not only took away my income, they took away my work,” he said in an interview with JTA, referring to the government, which Rosen has claimed in motions forced AIPAC to fire him. “My involvement with Middle East policy is something I not only did for 23 years at AIPAC but 20 years before AIPAC. When I was offered the opportunity to participate again, it’s only human to be very pleased and to have a structure in which I could contribute.”

The notion of Rosen taking a lead role in felling such a senior appointment is all the more remarkable given his recent profile.

Rosen defiantly continues to routinely attend think-tank sessions on Middle East policy, as well as a few on free speech that have dealt directly with his case. It is only over the last year or so that the Jewish community and State Department mandarins who attend such events have stopped taking frantic pains to avoid his eye contact, and begun to return his toothy grin and warm hellos.

For years, those who arrived late at a crowded event and wanted a seat could be certain of finding one next to Rosen.

“Good for him,” said Tom Dine, the former AIPAC president who hired Rosen and now consults with the Israel Policy Forum, a group that skews left of Rosen on Israel policy. “For some people it would ruin their lives. He still has spunk and it’s good to see.”

Dine said he wasn’t surprised to see Rosen’s return to the game.

“Pleasantly amused is more like it,” he said.

The climate might be more conducive for Rosen’s re-emergence. The judge in his case has openly criticized the government’s arguments as deeply flawed and severely restricted prosecutors’ options in making the case. There is a rare unity on the left and the right that the Bush administration overreached in bringing the charges under a section of the espionage law that has rarely been invoked, and never successfully.

Rosen and his co-defendant, Keith Weissman, AIPAC’s former Iran analyst, are charged with receiving classified information in a conversation and relaying it to colleagues, reporters and Israeli diplomats.

Rosenberg also has said the case should be dropped, despite his own loathing for Rosen, with whom he clashed decades ago when they were both employed by AIPAC. Still, he says, Rosen’s role in the Freeman matter seems untoward.

“Whether he is found innocent or not innocent, AIPAC itself made the decision that his behavior was beyond the pale enough that it terminated his employment,” he said. “Being indicted under the espionage act of 1917 doesn’t mean you’re necessarily guilty, but it’s nothing to be proud of.”

Pipes dismissed the repeated references to Rosen’s indictment cited by Freeman defenders.

“We do have a tradition of innocence until proven guilty,” he said. “He is not formally restricted from speaking out on these issues. Why would I want to censor him?”

Doug Bloomfield, another former AIPAC senior staffer who clashed with Rosen decades ago, said Rosen was smart enough to pick in Freeman a figure who was vulnerable for a fall, not just for his long published commentary on Israel but also for his friendliness to the Chinese and Saudi oligarchies.

“I thought Steve played it very cleverly,” said Bloomfield, who now corresponds with Rosen via e-mail. “He planted his seed in a very fertile field. Freeman was his own worst enemy, but Steve exploited it.”

Bloomfield chided organizations that claimed credit for Freeman’s withdrawal, including the Zionist Organization of America and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

“They’re not clever enough,” he said. “When it comes to this, Steve outmatches them.”

Pipes, who is based in Philadelphia and a consistent critic of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, describes Rosen as an insightful analyst to whom he turns to critique his own analyses.

“It’s pretty intense” is how he describes their daily exchanges, “with me pitching him the thoughts for his blog and asking for his advice because he has a wealth of experience in a very important area.”

Pipes and Rosen would not explain how Rosen is paid for his work, but an internal Middle East Forum solicitation used Rosen’s role in the Freeman case to fund-raise.

“Only someone with Steve’s stature and credibility could have made this happen, and on the basis of a mere 445-word comment,” says the e-mail, signed by Pipes.

Freeman and his defenders seize on such material to demonstrate that Rosen was in cahoots with a powerful lobby seeking to quash any dissent from an Israel policy that aligns with Likud, Israel’s right-wing party, and its allies.

“Within a day or two the Steve Rosen and Daniel Pipes crowd began piling on” is how Freeman put it in an interview with The Nation.

Rosen scoffs at the notion of him and Pipes being part of a “crowd” or of any effort coordinated with AIPAC.

“Some of the people who have been blogging I never met, and I’m not allowed to talk to people from AIPAC,” Rosen said, referring to the lobby’s ban on staff dealings with Rosen or Weissman as long as they are under indictment.

Indeed, Rosen is suing AIPAC, JTA revealed last week, for defamation based on its published reasons for firing him and Weissman.

Rosen would not comment on the lawsuit.

Bloomfield wondered whether the suit and the Freeman campaign were of a piece, saying that by raising his profile, Rosen was showing AIPAC that he was still capable of instigating a clamor—a talent that conceivably might be turned against his former employer.

“He not only knows where the skeletons are buried, he put a lot of them there,” Bloomfield said.

Rosen, whose commentary skews to the left of Pipes—overall, Rosen praises the Obama foreign policy team—is unapologetic. The Freeman remarks he highlighted were not taken out of context, Rosen says, but were part of a long public record.

Rosen, known in his AIPAC days for his prodigious recall, identified Freeman as a pro-Saudi critic of Israel as soon as he read of his appointment in The Cable, Foreign Policy magazine’s online column monitoring U.S. foreign policy.

“He was known as a hard-line critic of Israel who has been turning out advocacy material—not analysis, but advocacy material—for years,” Rosen said.

“He was quite well known, he was the AIPAC of the Arabs,” he said, referring to Freeman’s capacity heading the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council. “To see him painted as an analyst is very odd. He is an ideologue.”

Defenders of Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, have depicted him as a sharp contrarian whose analytical abilities were valued by Adm. Dennis Blair, the national intelligence director.

“We know Chas to be a man of integrity and high intelligence who would never let his personal views shade or distort intelligence assessments,” said a letter to The Wall Street Journal from 17 former ambassadors, including at least one, Sam Lewis, who is involved in pro-Israel advocacy.

In interviews, Freeman has said overall he admires Israel more than he criticizes it. He and his defenders posit a coordinated effort aimed at demonstrating pro-Israel muscle early in the administration.

“While AIPAC has attempted to avoid the appearance of being involved in any way in the attacks on Freeman, Rosen has taken a leading role,” Max Blumenthal wrote in his Rosen expose in The Daily Beast, an online news and opinion site.

AIPAC did not take a formal position on the Freeman appointment, and Congress members who pressed for Freeman’s withdrawal have said they did not hear from the lobby. Its spokesman, Josh Block, has emphasized in a number of forums that Rosen does not speak for AIPAC.

The group’s officials reportedly provided reporters with background on Freeman only upon request.

Rosen insists his approach was just-the-facts. His original blog post, titled “Alarming appointment at CIA,” quoted Freeman at length. Among lawmakers who pressed Blair to rescind the appointment, a number cited Freeman’s Israel views.

Others claimed he had financial ties to China and Saudi Arabia, which Freeman has vehemently denied. Still others cited his defense of how China deals with dissent: Freeman’s statements on China led U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, to become his most powerful detractor.

Other senior lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee contacted Blair privately based on concerns over Freeman’s China ties and views.

Rosenberg, of The Israel Policy Forum, wondered whether ultimately he and other Freeman defenders had unwittingly colluded with Rosen.

“People like me who opposed the effort to dump Freeman liked giving Rosen all the credit in order to discredit the effort,” he mused. “And he liked taking the credit.”

Briefs: L.A. Koreans and Jews protest anti-Semitic cartoons published in South Korea;

L.A. Koreans and Jews protest anti-Semitic cartoons published in South Korea

Leaders of the Korean and Jewish communities in Los Angeles have joined forces to vigorously protest anti-Semitic cartoons in a book published in South Korea and translated into English.

A typical cartoon depicts a newspaper, magazine, radio and TV set with the caption: “In a word, American public debate belongs to the Jews, and it is no exaggeration to say that [U.S. media] are the voice of the Jews.”

The publication in question, which is in comic book format, is one in a series titled, “Distant Countries and Neighboring Countries,” and is designed to teach young Korean students about other nations.

It was written by Lee Won-bok, a popular South Korean university professor and author, and the book’s English translation has reportedly sold more than 10 million copies.

“I don’t have words to describe the outrage I feel,” Yohngsohk Choe, co-chairman of the Korean Patriotic Action Movement in the U.S.A., told the Los Angeles Times.

Choe was among leaders of the large local Korean American community who met last Friday with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Choe added, “The depictions are explosive. They have the potential to harm good relationships with our Jewish American neighbors in Los Angeles.”

Cooper said he had written the publisher of the book, asking her “to carefully review the slanders in this book that historically have led to anti-Semitic violence and genocide,” and “consider providing facts about the Jewish people, our religion and values to young South Koreans.”

The publisher, Eun-Ju Park, answered by e-mail that she would check into the matter “more closely and correct what needs to be corrected,” a response Cooper considered unsatisfactory.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Jewish liaisons for Bush and Clinton outline work in ‘the real West Wing’

Noam Neusner, who served as Jewish liaison and special assistant to President George W. Bush, said last Thursday that while the president welcomes comments from major Jewish organizations on matters of national policy, “it was kind of crazy” for the Union of Reform Judaism to pass a resolution condemning the Iraq War.

Neusner and Jay K. Footlik, who was President Bill Clinton’s Jewish liaison, spoke at Sinai Temple at the 2007 Rabbi Samuel N. Sherman Memorial Lecture. Titled, “The Real West Wing,” the event was co-sponsored by StandWithUs and moderated by Rabbi David Wolpe.

It is the job of the Jewish liaison to advise the president on a wide range of issues, including such things as lives of Jews in the military, allegations of proselytizing or arranging the annual White House Chanukah party. Footlik said some people believe that the Jewish liaison works for Jewish community, rather than for the president. He pointed out that American Jews are “not shy” about telling the White House their feelings.

In response to a question about anti-Semitism in America, both men said that in spite of the impact of President Jimmy Carter’s recent book, support for Israel remains solid, but they stressed “you can’t take it for granted.”

Each cited examples of their administration’s commitment to Israel and the Jewish people and expressed confidence that regardless who wins the 2008 elections, American support for Israel will remain strong.

— Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

Milken schools chief announces retirement

Stephen S. Wise Schools went into high gear to find a successor for Dr. Rennie Wrubel, who last week announced her intention to retire from the position of head of school of Milken Community High School and Stephen S. Wise Middle School on June 30, 2008.

Wrubel, 62, has headed the schools for 10 years, during which time she has increased enrollment, made both the academics and Judaic studies more rigorous and built up the Jewish culture of the school, according to Metuka Benjamin, director of education for Stephen S. Wise Schools.

“She has been a great asset to Milken and really helped develop and build Milken,” Benjamin said. “She brought it to the next level.”

On Feb. 22, Wrubel sent a letter to Benjamin, explaining that she and her husband, who is 10 years her senior, longed to spend more time with each other and with family. Her daughter and son-in-law live in Israel with three children — a 4-year-old and twin 10-month-olds.

“Leading Milken for these past 10 years has been the highlight of my 41 years in education. It has been far more than a job to me; it has been an act of love,” Wrubel wrote, saying the decision to retire was one filled with emotion.

Milken is planning an international search for the position in the 16 months before Wrubel retires. With its $30 million campus, challenging academics and robust programming, the school aims to compete with L.A.’s best prep schools.

A search committee is already in formation, and administrators have hired Littleford & Associates, a consulting and executive search firm that has worked with the synagogue and its schools in the past and understands the culture and needs of the school, Benjamin told parents in a letter. John C. Littleford has already visited the school to conduct focus groups to develop a leadership profile for the position.

Once candidates have been identified and narrowed down, small groups of parents, teachers, alumni, students and administrators will have a chance to interview semifinalists and give input to the search committee. The committee aims to make a final recommendation by February 2008.

— Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor

Police Chief Bratton warns terrorism will be threat for the rest of our lives

“Terrorism, like crime, is going to be with us the rest of our lives” LAPD Chief William Bratton told Rabbi David Woznica at an open forum at Stephen S. Wise Temple Monday night.

“Since we are a likely target, we share intelligence with the FBI and the governments of Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Israel. We know we must trust one another and learn from each other.”He went on to reassure his audience, however, stating that “we are highly regarded for our capability and creativity, and there’s no place as well prepared as this place.”

Survivors Sue Claims Commission

Survivors are suing the commission on Nazi-era insurance claims, a commissioner has called for the resignation of its chief and Jewish officials handling the claims acknowledge serious problems.

But they also say there probably isn’t a better way to dole out the claims.

The anger and frustration some lawmakers and survivors feel toward the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims peaked last week when several survivors filed suit, claiming the organization was delaying payments.

California’s insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, a member of the commission, later joined the suit and called for the resignation of the commission’s chairman, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Survivors Jack Brauns, Manny Steinberg and Si Frumkin, all Los Angeles-area residents, charged that the ICHEIC improperly delayed or denied payments totaling more than $1 billion on policies held by the survivors or heirs of those who perished under Nazi rule.

"This is a commission that is supposed to help survivors," said William Shernoff, the plaintiffs’ lawyer. "But from what we see, they are helping the insurance companies more than survivors."

They also are seeking Eagleburger’s resignation, saying his salary — which they estimate at over $300,000 — is paid for by the insurance companies. The plaintiffs believe Eagleburger is working in the insurance companies’ interests.

"This is blood money stolen from survivors," said Frumkin, chair of the Southern California Council for Soviet Jewry.

For his part, Eagleburger says he has no intention of resigning. His aide, Anais Haase, said that time and resources planned for investigating claims would be diverted to defending against the lawsuit if the survivors persist in fighting them.

"We don’t believe we are mistreating survivors or their heirs," Haase said. "We offer the only option available at no cost to survivors and their heirs."

The plaintiffs are asking the ICHEIC to place more pressure on Italian insurance company Assicurazioni Generali to divulge more unpaid life insurance policies. The ICHEIC has published 9,000 names of Generali policyholders, but the claimants suggest the list could exceed 100,000 policies.

Shernoff said Holocaust survivors and their heirs should also maintain the right to use litigation to gain money owed them, rather than working through the ICHEIC.

The suit was filed under California’s Unfair Business Practices statute, but it’s unclear whether the ICHEIC can legally be defined as a business.

A Generali official in New York called the lawsuit baseless and misleading, saying that thousands of claimants "have and will continue to be paid and offered generous amounts through ICHEIC, which is supported by leading Jewish Holocaust restitution organizations and the State of Israel."

Stuart Eizenstat, a special representative for Holocaust issues in the Clinton administration, said the lawsuits could wreck the ICHEIC system if the suit nullifies the agreements the commission has reached with the insurance agencies.

"It continues to cast a cloud of debate over the exercise," he said. "It diverts energy and attention from filling claims."

Eizenstat said he appreciates that the suit is an expression of frustration over the slow process of paying claims. But he and others contend that the insurance companies, not the ICHEIC, have made the process more difficult by withholding names.

Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress, agreed.

"There is no bad faith here," he said of the ICHEIC. "There is bad information after 50 years."

Singer acknowledged that the organization has had trouble completing its mission.

"ICHEIC has a mammoth task, and it’s bigger than we ever thought it was going to be," Singer said. "We couldn’t have known it at the time."

He suggested an ombudsman might be able to bridge the gap between the ICHEIC and the Holocaust survivors.

The ICHEIC, founded in 1998 by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, has had some problems in the past two years. Eagleburger threatened to resign last year after difficulty securing cooperation from German insurance companies.

Congressional representatives and others also have chastised Eagleburger and the commission for its slow progress, especially considering the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors.

The ICHEIC also has been criticized for spending $56 million in five years, and Eizenstat agreed that the organization cannot be considered a model of efficiency.

But both Eizenstat and Singer defended Eagleburger.

"Larry has earned every nickel and then some," Eizenstat said. "He’s had to undergo hell to bring the parties together."

California Gov. Gray Davis issued a statement Saturday accusing the ICHEIC of "not meeting its mission.

"The system does not work, claims are not being investigated and survivors are not being paid,” Davis said in the statement.

Edwin Black and Tom Tugend contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Hahn’s Most Important Choice

The Hahn administration, whose tenure has been marked by an often unnecessarily divisive campaign against secession, now faces a far more important decision: the choice of a new police chief. Nothing the mayor and his advisers do in the next three years will be more important to both the Jewish community and all of Los Angeles.

By choosing a strong, respected chief, our mayor could finally show that he has the moxie and vision to address what has been the most serious challenge to Los Angeles for the past half-century. With crime on the rise, and the department seriously understaffed, strong remedial action needs to be taken.

If there’s ever been a time for a “top-of-the-line” choice for LAPD chief, this is the time. It’s not just that homicides are up in Los Angeles, including the Valley. The terrorist challenge — not just Sept. 11 but the continuing assaults on cities in Israel, Europe and Asia — represents an attack on the very sense of security that underpins urbanity, and is critical to the survival of cosmopolitan minorities, such as Jews.

The terrorist assault has made the police function, in Los Angeles and other cities, even more important. Rather than simply a mission for Washington, municipal governments and most particularly police departments are actually in the front lines against terror, noted Matt Walton, founder of e-Team, a Canoga Park-based security consultancy.

Among the measures being taken, said Walton, whose firm is advising eight of the nation’s 10 largest cities, has been a strong attempt to break down the “departmental silos” that hampered both intelligence collection and response to catastrophes, such as the Sept. 11 attacks. New computerized tracking systems must make it easier to keep tabs on potentially dangerous residents.

To lead this effort, Los Angeles needs an effective and aggressive police chief. Traditional obsessions with race, union privileges and political correctness — long important to Los Angeles’ liberal Jewish elites — must be superseded by the priority of finding not the most acceptable chief, but the best chief.

Our memories of unjust, repressive regimes, most notably the czarist police and the Nazis, make us understandably wary of strong police figures. Yet historically, Jews — as an urban people — have always depended on strong security. Without this, cities cannot function, and chaos ensues, a situation extremely dangerous for exposed minorities.

From the earliest times, dating back to at least 3000 B.C.E., cities have been places with special meaning — places sacred and busy with commerce. But often overlooked is the fact that in order to enjoy the creative, openness and intense economic activity that is an age-old joy of urban life, they must also be safe.

“Throughout history, it’s not just that it’s ‘the city that sets you free.’ It’s also the city that makes you safe from the depredations of the barbarians,” observed John Kasarda, a long-time student of urban issues at the Kenan Institute at the University of North Carolina.

It is indeed no exaggeration that without providing basic security, cities would likely never have come into existence at all, or would today be the centers of our global civilization. This is particularly true for Jewish culture, which, despite its pastoral mythic origins, has, for most of its history, flourished within the relative comfort of cities.

Security was the critical element that, along with religion and commerce, created the urban culture of Mesopotamia, out of which the Hebrews emerged. In the earliest Mesopotamian settlement, temples and palaces alike stood within the inner walls; trade and commerce stayed close by in adjacent districts.

“The first buildings erected by man,” said Henri Pirenne, the great French scholar of the Middle Ages, “seem, indeed, to have been protecting walls.”

It was in Babylon, with its 11 miles of defensive ramparts, that Jews in exile developed their sophistication and much of their written culture. The idea of the codification of laws, critical to the Jewish ethic, derives as well from ancient Iraq. The code of Hammurabi–written well before the scriptures — was devised in part because an increasingly complex urban society required clear rules and regulations, and citizens willing to submit to them.

This need for security was also manifest in the choice by King David of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The walled city of the Jebusites provided the young and vulnerable Jewish state with a strategic, defensible capital.

In the Diaspora, the need for security also was manifest. Stateless and largely defenseless, Jews were particularly vulnerable to criminal bands, and required the protection of a strong state, such as that provided by the Hellenistic princes in Alexandria, or later under the Romans. Although the heroic, insurrectionary tradition often paints these rulers as villains, Jewish culture and population grew most in the strongest, most secure cities, such as Antioch, Rome and, most of all, Alexandria.

As the Pax Romana expanded, so too did the Jewish global presence. By the third century C.E., the Eternal City had become a multiethnic, million-person behemoth, complete with huge expanses of multistory apartments, complex traffic patterns and numerous, highly specialized markets — and a flourishing Jewish community.

“Rome,” wrote Emperor Marcus Aurelius, “is the citadel that has all the people of the world as its villagers.”

When this greatest of imperial cities could no longer protect its citizens from barbarian invaders or maintain order at home, it, too, eventually collapsed. Those Jews who remained in Europe clung increasingly to the small, secure castle towns that still provided a role for a minority increasingly dependent on artisanry, trade and commerce.

Ironically, arguably the greatest urban system of control and the safest haven for Jews between antiquity and modern times derived from the Islamic heartland itself. One often underestimated contribution of the Prophet Mohammed, himself a merchant from a city built on trade, and his successors, lay in their successful imposition of both peace and legal order on what had been a chaotic, violence-prone region of the world. Jews flourished throughout the Islamic empires from Spain to Persia.

Only after the 16th century, when most Islamic and Asian cultures began to stagnate, did the European, and later American, cities begin establishing themselves as the world’s uncontested centers of commerce, trade, art and finance. Jewish history — particularly with the eradication of the shtetl culture by Hitler and Stalin — now almost entirely takes place within cities, whether Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles or those in Israel.

Today, the terrorist threat threatens the primacy of these cities more than anything since World War II. Only determined vigilance can assure the essential well-being of urban areas.

The crime waves of the 1970s and 1980s pushed Jews further out of the cities; the sharp decline in crime during the mid- to late 1990s helped bring more back into the urban centers, and helped preserve existing communities from the East Valley to Fairfax.

Today, Jews from around the world migrate to places like Los Angeles, which seems a lot safer for families and commerce than Paris, London and, sadly, Tel Aviv. Our future as one of the Jewish capitals of the world rests fundamentally on having an efficient, tough and fair Police Department. No city function is more important.

This is why it is critical that Mayor Hahn step outside his usual prosaic approach and reach out for the best possible candidate. The Jewish community, which now stands as one of the critical swing groups in the city’s polity, should pressure him to do nothing less.