School leaders arrested for cheating Israeli government


The leaders of six educational institutions accused of using fake identification cards to cheat the government of millions of shekels have been arrested.

In raids on nonprofit organizations’ offices associated with the haredi Orthodox institutions, Israeli police reportedly confiscated counterfeit ID cards along with a printer, rubber stamp and laminating machine.

The schools are located in Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, Ramat Beit Shemesh and Betar Ilit in the West Bank.

The fake cards, which use the names and national identification numbers of real people but with different photos, were presented to the Education Ministry in order to receive monthly allocations for students who were supposed to be studying at the school. The organizations made it seem as if hundreds of students attended each of the schools, though only a few dozen did.

The scam has been going on for more than a year, according to reports. Other schools may be involved in the scam, Haaretz reported.

Israel’s Labor Party Votes to Join Government Coalition


JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Labor Party voted to join the Likud-led coalition government, virtually guaranteeing that Benjamin Netanyahu will be Israel’s next prime minister.

Labor chief Ehud Barak’s bid to join Netanyahu’s coalition came down to a contentious vote Tuesday night by the party’s central committee, with 680 in favor of joining and 570 against.

With Labor behind him, Netanyahu now has the 60-plus Knesset majority necessary to form a government and become prime minister. His other coalition partners include the Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas parties.

Barak argued that Labor joining the Likud-led coalition was best for the country and would not provide cover for a right-wing agenda.

“I am not afraid of Benjamin Netanyahu. We won’t be anyone’s fig leaf or anyone’s third wheel,” Barak told the central committee. “We will act as an opposing force that will ensure there will not be a narrow right-wing government, but a real government that looks after the State of Israel.”

Audience members who disagreed booed Barak.

“We would be entering this government as a third wheel, as a wagging tail, not more than that,”  Knesset member Shelly Yachimovich said before the vote. “There is no shame in sitting in the opposition. On the contrary, it’s an honor.”

Earlier in the day, Barak and Netanyahu came together on a draft agreement stipulating that in exchange for Labor’s joining the coalition, the Israeli government would commit toward working for achieve regional peace, affirm its commitment to all agreements signed by previous Israeli governments, allow Barak to continue on as defense minister and be a full partner in the diplomatic process, and enforce the law on illegal outposts, according to media reports.

U.S., Israeli officials see conflicting Iraq study ideas


American and Israeli government officials agree on two things: Iraq has nothing at all to do with Israeli-Arab issues.

Except when it does.

From President Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on down, the leadership of the Israeli and U.S. governments are simultaneously embracing and rebuffing last week’s conclusions of the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group, which makes Israeli-Arab peace progress a linchpin of a successful outcome in Iraq. The crux of their argument is that while it is wrong to blame the Israeli-Arab impasse for any part of the crisis in Iraq, actors in that crisis — chief among them Iran and its allies — are successfully using Israel as a justification for raising the stakes in Iraq.

“We do this not because we are persuaded by some linkage or another, but because it is in the U.S. national interest,” David Welch, the top U.S. State Department envoy to the Middle East, said Friday of U.S. involvement in Arab-Israeli peace when he addressed the Saban Forum, an annual colloquy of U.S. and Israeli leaders.

Another Bush administration official put it more bluntly: “Palestine is not a relevant issue to Iraq, but it is an issue exploited by Iran and extremists throughout the region,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Arab-Israeli peace talks would have a “positive, emboldening effect,” the official said. “If progress among Israel and the Palestinians is manifested, then moderates throughout the region win and extremists lose.”

Conversely, the official said, “We believe that a success in Iraq, a success for moderates against forces of extremism, whether secular or religious, will have a very significant impact in the region, in Syria, in Lebanon, as well as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Bush administration has welcomed Olmert’s recent overture to the Palestinians, in which he promised a release of prisoners and increased mobility, should a cease-fire hold and the Palestinians prove themselves able to present a negotiating team that renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel’s existence.

Mahmoud Abbas, the relatively moderate Palestinian Authority president, has all but given up on such concessions from the Cabinet, led by the terrorist Hamas group, and has proposed new elections.
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, said at the Saban Forum that Israel and the West should encourage alternatives to the Hamas government, although she did not elaborate.

Bush launched a weeklong review of the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations on Monday, starting with meetings with top State Department officials. Later in the week he was to have met with outside experts, top U.S. diplomats in the region and top military brass.

His primary concern about the report is its deadline for a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops by the first quarter of 2008. Bush has steadfastly resisted timetables until now. However, after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is scheduled to tour the region, Bush suggested that he embraces the report’s Iraq-Israeli-Palestinian linkage, counting it as one of three ways to move the Iraq process forward.

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is important to be solved,” the president said.

That’s music to the ears of Blair and other Europeans. They enthusiastically welcomed the recommendations of the commission headed by James Baker, secretary of state for Bush’s father, and Lee Hamilton, a former Indiana Democratic congressman.

“The German government shares many of the political observations in the report,” a statement from the German Embassy in Washington said last week on the eve of a U.S. visit by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “The entire Middle East region must move into the international community’s scope. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of central importance.”

Such views were hardly welcome at the Saban Forum, where the Iraq Study Group’s report lent an anxious irritability to the weekend proceedings. The Saban Center, a Brookings Institution subsidiary funded by American-Israeli entertainment mogul Haim Saban, attracts top names to its annual colloquies. Last year’s was in Jerusalem.

“The Iraqi conflict has very little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis,” Yuli Tamir, Israel’s education minister, said during a break from the conference’s closed sessions. “I don’t think it’s relevant — it’s a good justification but not a reason.”

On Sunday, Olmert, who had earlier suggested that he disagrees with the report’s conclusions, ordered his Cabinet not to comment on it, saying it was an internal American affair.

Livni did not mention the Baker-Hamilton report by name, but its conclusions were clearly the focus of her keynote address at a gala State Department dinner last Friday.

“There is a commonly mistaken assumption that I sometimes hear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core of the trouble of the Middle East; that somehow if this conflict could be resolved, so the situation could be different, and we can face a totally different region,” Livni said. “So, this is wrong. This view confuses symptom and cause. The truth is that the conflicts in the Middle East are a consequence, not a cause, of radicalism and terrorism.”

Nevertheless, in the same speech Livni was preoccupied by how Iran would fare in the Iraq crisis — and what a success by its Shiite Muslim protégés in Iraq would bode for Israel and the region.

“The idea of spreading Shiism all over the region is a threat not only to Israel but the region itself,” she said, citing efforts by the Hezbollah terrorist group to topple Lebanon’s Western-leaning government.

Bush expressed wariness about the commission’s recommendations to engage Iran and Syria. He was adamant that those countries are out of bounds until they stop backing terrorists. If Syria and Iran are “not committed to that concept, then they shouldn’t bother to show up” to a regional conference on Iraq, he said after meeting with Blair.

Iran’s ambitions dominated much of the Saban Forum. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres spoke darkly of the possibility of war in a Saturday panel with former President Bill Clinton.

“Iran’s strength derives from the weakness of the international community,” Peres said. “If there was an international coalition, there would be no need to go to war against Iran, and Iran would return to its natural dimensions.”

Israel backs U.S. and European efforts to sanction Iran until it gives up enriching uranium, a step toward manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Peres described a range of options to prevent Iran’s nuclearization: monitoring its missiles with nuclear warhead capability, economic sanctions, limiting its oil production and assisting regime change.

Mideast Solution: A Confederation


The Palestinians and the Israelis seem to agree on one thing: that the other is at fault. Each side wants recognition by the other that they are innocent victims, that the other side
is wrong. Each side demands that the other relinquish crucial aspects of its identity.

In such a situation, the best solution is to concentrate on a pragmatic approach that will benefit both peoples, yet not impinge on the sovereignty of either the Jewish state or its Palestinian counterpart. Such an approach may lay the groundwork for peace, by focusing on joint decision making on non-politically charged issues.

For some time now, the Israel-Palestinian Confederation (IPC) has pursued this option. It believes that one possible solution involves electing a confederation government comprised of Israelis (both Jewish and Arab) and Palestinians.
How exactly would such a confederation work? Approximately 10 million people live in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza: 6 million are Jews, and 4 million are Arabs. Dividing the entire region into 300 districts apportioned by population should result in a legislature divided approximately 60/40 in favor of the Israelis. However, if the relative birth rates of Palestinians to Israelis maintain its current ratio, in the not too distant future, Palestinians will outnumber Israelis.

The legislature will tackle issues that the Israeli and Palestinian governments, for internal political reasons, find difficult to address. The legislature will also deal with the day-to-day quality of life issues where cooperation is required including, but certainly not limited to, locating public facilities such as water lines, highways, schools and hospitals.

To encourage consensus and to prevent the majority from riding roughshod over the minority, confederation legislation requires a supermajority of 60 percent of the 300 delegates and at least 25 percent of the minority on any given vote. The Israeli and Palestinian governments will be given a veto power. To illustrate this point: in a 300-seat legislature, 180 votes are necessary to pass anything. However, if the balance between Israelis and Palestinians is 180 Israelis and 120 Palestinians, if Israeli sponsored legislation is enacted, it would require that of the 180 votes at least 30 came from Palestinians.

This supermajority voting requirement coupled with protections for the minority as well a veto power for the Israeli and Palestinian governments will foster cooperation, since any legislation promoting the national aspirations of one side at the expense of the other will easily be blocked. As a consequence, the representatives will concentrate on initiatives that improve their constituents’ lives.

The IPC believes that confederation legislation reached by consensus will discourage the governments from exercising their vetoes. If legislation has wide popular support among the two peoples, it may be untenable for the one government to veto the legislation without undermining its own legitimacy.

In this sense, a confederation will serve as a bridge between the Palestinian and Israeli governments
Because neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority is likely to willingly relinquish its monopoly on governance, initially, the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation will have to hold a private election. This also will establish the independence of the body showing that it is not a tool of either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

Direct representation elections for Gaza, Israel and the West Bank is nothing new. Israel has been a functioning parliamentary democracy throughout its existence, and the recent Palestinian elections have been recognized as honest, open and free.

The 300 representatives will not be targets for an extreme or violent group, because members of those groups are motivated by antagonism against their own or the other’s government. These elements believe they can derail the peace process by forcing their respective governments to act aggressively toward the other. A confederation legislature comprised of representatives who do not represent the entire nation will not be considered a threat and any attack on it will not lead to the desired reaction of causing the Israeli or Palestinian governments to lash out.

While there is now no mechanism for the Palestinians and Israelis to solve daily and long term issues for the benefit of both sides, and there are no rules to resolve conflicts when they erupt, the confederation, once effective in demonstrating that Israelis and Palestinians can govern together, will become the de facto authority to establish rules to settle issues, solve problems, and enhance working and living relations between and among the peoples of the region.

At a UCLA symposium held Feb. 26, 2006, Alan Dershowitz surprised many guests with a general approval of a, “Loose confederation, based on the kind that now exists in parts of Europe with economic and other forms of cooperation involving natural resources and water.”

Dershowitz stated that “The Confederation idea is worthy of consideration as long as it does not mean a one state solution.”

He went on to say, “any kind of a Confederation would require that Israel retains its sovereignty, its ability to defend itself, its ability to reflect Jewish culture and history.”

Former President Bill Clinton in a personal letter to this writer was very encouraging of the Confederation idea, perhaps reflecting on his own experience with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat,
The European Union is a multinational union of independent states. It is an intergovernmental union of 25 states, each maintaining its own government and identity. Ever since its establishment in 1992 the EU conduct an election every five years for the Common European Parliament. The EU manages to maintain a separate common government for all of the 25 states but yet each one of them has its own separate government.

Switzerland has two chambers in the Legislative Branch. The National Council representing the people and the Council of States representing the cantons.

The Swiss National Council has 200 seats with each canton contributing representatives in proportion to its size. The Council of States has two members for each canton and one member for half canton. The Swiss system is meant to create a balance where the small cantons will be protected from the large.

Indeed, the United States and Canada have a similar formula which combines a federal government overlapping with separate state governments. Each of the 50 states has its own constitution and legislative body. However, each state sends two senators and a proportionate number of congressmen depending on its population size to a common federal government.
The idea of a confederation is widely accepted around the world. It is designed to achieve a mechanism of cooperation while preserving the identity and special needs of its states.

Olmert’s embrace of hawks could cost him Labor support in coaliton


In a bold gambit designed to bolster his shaky coalition, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is bringing a hawkish party into his coalition, guaranteeing him the support of 78 members of the 120-seat Knesset and possibly one of the most stable governments in Israeli history.

The move significantly strengthens Avigdor Lieberman, hardline leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party, and leaves the rest of the Israeli right in disarray.

It also raises questions for the dovish Labor Party, Olmert’s main coalition partner.

The accession of Yisrael Beiteinu could herald the end of any potential peacemaking between Israel and its neighbors, and Labor will have to decide whether it can continue serve in the same government. The fact that Lieberman has been accused of racism with regard to Israeli Arabs compounds Labor’s dilemma.

Lieberman wants to focus on the strategic threat posed by Iran as well as on reforming Israel’s notoriously unstable form of government. A Yisrael Beiteinu proposal to adopt a full-blown American-style presidential system is unlikely to pass, but Lieberman’s drive for reform probably will spur changes aimed at strengthening the larger parties within the current European-style parliamentary system, paving the way for more stable government.

Indeed, the reason Olmert turned to Lieberman was because his coalition, barely six months old, was under pressure over the state budget. To avoid yet another early election, Israel’s prime minister needs to pass the budget by the end of each year, but with Labor rebels threatening to vote against it, pundits were predicting elections by spring.

With Lieberman in the coalition and assuming Labor decides to stay, Olmert’s budget worries are over. With his own Kadima Party, Labor, Yisrael Beiteinu, the Pensioners Party and the Sephardi Orthodox Shas Party, Olmert’s coalition includes nearly two-thirds of the Knesset and is unlikely to face any serious challenge to its parliamentary majority — unless one or more parties defect.

Olmert describes the new coalition as perfectly balanced, with Yisrael Beiteinu to the right, Labor to the left and Kadima in the center, which is precisely where he wants it to be in terms of electoral appeal.

But whether the left-right balance makes for levelheaded decision-making or instead creates paralysis is one of the perennial conundrums of Israeli politics. In this case, left-wingers fear Lieberman may be able to stymie any peacemaking initiatives and even prevent the evacuation of illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank, as called for by the “road map” peace plan that remains nominally operative.

Evacuation of outposts could be a first test case. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the Labor leader, has instructed the army to come up with detailed evacuation plans, and there could be a showdown within the next few weeks.

Lieberman has signed onto the guidelines of Olmert’s coalition, which include outpost evacuation and peace moves, but pundits are asking whether being in government will moderate Lieberman or whether Lieberman will radicalize the government.

Left-wingers also are highly critical of Lieberman’s appointment as strategic affairs minister, with special responsibility for the Iranian threat. They say Lieberman — who once spoke of bombing Egypt’s Aswan Dam — is the last person who should be dealing with the nuclear threat posed by Iran.

In an editorial titled “Lieberman is a strategic threat,” the left-leaning Ha’aretz wrote that “the choice of the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around for this job constitutes a strategic threat in its own right. Lieberman’s lack of restraint and his unbridled tongue, comparable only to those of Iran’s president, could be disastrous for the entire region.”

Lieberman was born in Moldova in the former Soviet Union in 1958, and immigrated to Israel when he was 20. He came to prominence as Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-hand man, rebuilding the party from 1993-1996 and helping to mastermind Netanyahu’s national election victory in 1996.

Lieberman made his name as a political strongman, earning the sobriquet “director-general of the country” when he ran the Prime Minister’s Office under Netanyahu.

After falling out with Netanyahu, Lieberman left the Likud in 1999 to found Yisrael Beiteinu, a mainly Russian immigrant party, winning four seats that year, three in 2001 and 11 in elections last May.
Uncompromisingly hawkish, he opposed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal, once resigning from a Sharon government and once being fired.

That did not stop Sharon from describing Lieberman as one of the best ministers in his administration, and few doubt Lieberman’s competence. The problem left-wingers have is with his hawkishness on regional affairs, and his perceived racism with regard to Israeli Arabs.

Lieberman caused a furor in the Knesset last May when he labeled Arab legislators who expressed sympathy for the terrorist group Hamas and refused to honor Israel’s Independence Day “collaborators.”

“The Second World War ended with the Nuremberg trials and the execution of the Nazi leadership. Not only them, but all those who collaborated with them. I hope that will be the fate of the collaborators in this house,” Lieberman declared from the Knesset podium.

Arab Knesset members were outraged. Legislator Ahmed Tibi retorted that Lieberman was “a man for whom fascism has become a way of life and racism a tool of the trade.”

The Yisrael Beiteinu leader also has two controversial proposals with regard to Israeli Arabs: He wants to pass an amendment to the citizenship law that would require them to swear an oath of loyalty to the state, and favors a land swap with the Palestinians that could leave more than 250,000 Israeli Arabs on the Palestinian side of the border.

Such views are enough for some Laborites to rule out any possible coalition with Lieberman, but others say that whether Labor remains in the coalition depends on the government’s policies and actions.
Labor’s Central Committee is set to meet Sunday to decide. Most pundits believe the decision will be to stay, at least for the time being.

Ironically, Lieberman’s move fragments the right at a time when opinion polls show the Israeli public shifting rightward after the Lebanon war. The big loser is Netanyahu — who, before Lieberman’s move, seemed poised to return to power in early elections next year.

Now, if the new coalition holds, elections are due only in 2010 — by which time the polls likely will be giving very different answers to very different questions.

Leslie Susser is the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Report

Olmert Sworn in as Israel’s New PM


Exactly four months after assuming Israel’s top office amid tragedy, Ehud Olmert has been confirmed as prime minister, and hopes to lead the Jewish state to security, if not peace.

Olmert was sworn in last week, along with his Cabinet, after the Knesset approved the coalition government he formed to push through a plan for withdrawing from swathes of the West Bank and setting Israel’s borders, unilaterally if necessary, in the absence of peace talks with the Palestinians.

In his address to fellow lawmakers, Olmert had fond words for Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister struck down and left in a coma by a stroke Jan. 4. But Olmert soon made clear he intended to be no less of a statesman, following up on last year’s pullout from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank with even more sweeping moves in the West Bank.

“Even when everything around him was stormy and turbulent, Arik remained in the eye of the storm, quiet and confident, his hand holding the wheel steady and focused,” Olmert said. “The disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria was an essential first step in this direction, but the main part is still ahead.”

He continued, “Partition of the land for the purpose of guaranteeing a Jewish majority is the lifeline of Zionism. I know how hard it is, especially for the settlers and those faithful to Eretz Yisrael, but I am convinced, with all my heart, that it is necessary and that we must do it with dialogue, internal reconciliation and broad consensus.”

Israeli media reports said Olmert’s plan to evacuate some 60,000 settlers from isolated West Bank communities while annexing major settlement blocs could get under way within two years.

The prime minister extended an olive branch to the Palestinian Authority — he is expected to meet in late May with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas — but with the Palestinian Authority’s Hamas-led government refusing to renounce terrorism, few expect a peace accord.

“The State of Israel is prepared to wait for this necessary change in the Palestinian Authority,” Olmert said. “That said, we will not wait forever. The State of Israel does not want to, nor can it, suspend the fateful decisions regarding its future until the Palestinian Authority succeeds in implementing the commitments it undertook in the past.”

With its three partner factions, Olmert’s centrist Kadima Party controls 67 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, a narrow majority that will be tested by the prospect of another pullout.

Among the 49 lawmakers who voted against the government were both the right-wing Likud Party, which leads the political opposition, and Israeli Arab factions — an unusual alliance suggesting that Olmert will be criticized as being both too soft and too tough on the Palestinians.

But he received unequivocal support from Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu for tough words on arch-foe Iran and its nuclear program.

“The pursuit by this rogue and terror-sponsoring regime of nuclear weapons is currently the most dangerous global development, and the international community must do its utmost to stop it,” Olmert said. “The State of Israel, which the evil leaders in Tehran have turned into a target for annihilation, is not helpless and has the ability to defend itself against any threat.”

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Who’s Who in the New Government

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, seated left, and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, seated right, pose for a group photo with Olmert’s new 25-member Cabinet at the presidential residence in Jerusalem. (First row, from left) Yacov Ben Yizri, Gil Pensioners Party, health; Rafi Eitan, Gil, minister without portfolio (pensioner affairs); Yitzhak Cohen, Shas, minister without portfolio (religious councils); Olmert; Katsav; Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Kadima, regional development; Deputy Prime Minister Amir Peretz, Labor, defense; Yuli Tamir, Labor, education; and Ze’ev Boim, Kadima, immigrant absorption. (Second row, from left) Eitan Cabel, Labor, minister without portfolio (Israel Broadcasting Authority); Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, Kadima, transportation; Ophir Pines-Paz, Labor, culture and sport; Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai, Shas, industry, trade and labor; Meir Sheetrit, Kadima, housing and construction; Ronnie Bar-On, Kadima, interior; Ya’acov Edri, Kadima, minister without portfolio(Cabinet liaison); Deputy Prime Minister Tzipi Livni, Kadima, foreign affairs; Haim Ramon, Kadima, justice; Isaac Herzog, Labor, tourism; and Shalom Simhon, Labor, agriculture. (Back row, from left) Gideon Ezra, Kadima, environment; Meshulam Nahari, Shas, without portfolio; Avi Dichter, Kadima, internal security; Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Labor, national infrastructures; Avraham Hirchson, Kadima, finance; Ariel Atias, Shas, communications; and Israel Maimon, Cabinet secretary. Photo by Brian Hendler/JTA

Following are thumbnail biographical sketches of the main players in Israel’s new government.

•Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: A charismatic ex-mayor of Jerusalem who filled Ariel Sharon’s post when the former prime minister was crippled by a stroke in January, Olmert lacks Sharon’s military pedigree but is considered a shrewd statesman. A scion of the long-dominant Likud Party, Olmert was quick to follow Sharon when the former premier left the Likud to form the more centrist Kadima Party last year. Olmert is considered a pragmatist keen to follow up last year’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank with more far-reaching moves in the West Bank, and to set Israel’s border unilaterally in the absence of peace talks with the Palestinians.

•Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: As the second woman, after the iconic Golda Meir, to hold the Foreign Affairs portfolio, some expect Livni to similarly rise to top office one day. A one-time Mossad operative, Livni cut her political teeth as immigration and justice minister in previous Likud-led governments. Well before Hamas won Palestinian Authority elections in January, Livni invested months in convincing Western nations to isolate the Islamic terrorist group.

•Defense Minister Amir Peretz: Chairman of the Labor Party, senior partner to Olmert’s Kadima in the coalition government, Peretz secured the key Defense Ministry — raising eyebrows given his lack of military experience. A veteran trade unionist, Peretz is considered a Labor firebrand, but since toppling Shimon Peres as party head last year he has alienated colleagues who accuse him of lacking diplomatic vision.

•Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson: An Olmert confidant, Hirchson is expected to press ahead with free-market reforms championed by former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As tourism minister in the previous government, Hirchson helped introduce more competition in Israeli commercial aviation and pursued joint projects with his Palestinian Authority counterpart.

•Minister of Regional Development Shimon Peres: As Israel’s elder statesman, Peres was guaranteed a senior role in the new government. He is expected to focus his efforts on developing the Galilee and Negev, areas that have received new attention since the Gaza Strip withdrawal prompted a quest to re-house former settlers. Winner of the Nobel peace prize for his role as architect of the Oslo peace accords, Peres could also lend diplomatic polish to Olmert’s plan to annex West Bank settlement blocs.

•Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter: A former head of the Shin Bet domestic security service who backed the assassination of top Palestinian terrorists, Dichter has made the most dramatic leap from Israel’s security ranks to politics. He is expected to apply his experience to fighting a crime wave sweeping the Jewish state.

The other members of the Cabinet, with their parties and positions, are:

•Ariel Atias, Shas, Minister of Communications;

•Ronnie Bar-On, Kadima, Minister of the Interior;

•Ya’acov Ben Yizri, Gil, Minister of Health;

•Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Labor, Minister of National Infrastructures;

•Ze’ev Boim, Kadima, Minister of Immigrant Absorption;

•Eitan Cabel, Labor, Minister without portfolio (responsible for the Israel Broadcasting Authority);

•Yitzhak Cohen, Shas, Minister without portfolio (responsible for the religious councils);

•Ya’akov Edri, Kadima, Minister without portfolio (responsible for liaison with the Knesset);

•Rafi Eitan, Gil, Minister without portfolio (responsible for pensioners);

•Gideon Ezra, Kadima, Minister of the Environment;

•Isaac Herzog, Labor, Minister of Tourism;

•Shaul Mofaz, Kadima, Minister of Transportation;

•Meshulam Nahari, Shas, Minister without portfolio;

•Ophir Pines-Paz, Labor, Minister of Culture and Sport;

•Haim Ramon, Kadima, Minister of Justice;

•Meir Sheetrit, Kadima, Minister of Housing and Construction;

•Shalom Simhon, Labor, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development;

•Yuli Tamir, Labor, Minister of Education;

•Eli Yishai, Shas, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Follow ‘West Wing’ Script on Mideast Peace


Murder and mayhem in Gaza; Israelis and Palestinians — all too often innocents — die daily. Reformers and warlords challenge Yasser Arafat as chaos and anarchy envelop the Palestinian Authority.

What’s an American president to do? Let the fire spread until it burns out? Or find a way to end the bloodletting?

On last season’s finale of TV’s “The West Wing,” these vexing choices faced fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet. They also happen to face the man who inhabits the real West Wing, President Bush. More importantly, they face the man who will occupy the White House come January.

While the campaign season has sidelined any new U.S. Arab-Israeli initiatives, no president can long defer decisions over a volatile region that profoundly impact U.S. national security.

Can Bartlet teach Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) something about the Middle East?

On TV, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry pressed Bartlet to authorize F-18 missile strikes on Palestinian terrorists in a dense urban area, collateral damage notwithstanding. But fictional deputy national security adviser Kate Harper had a different idea: Try smart diplomacy instead of smart bombs.

You can’t negotiate with those Palestinians, scoffed McGarry, hawking the hard-line Bush-Ariel Sharon catechism. Farad (a fictional Arafat) must be removed and terror roundly defeated before peace talks can resume. Until then, Israel must determine interim borders on its own.

But this dogmatic position — on TV and in reality — blinds us to opportunities for a breakthrough.

The popular slogan that Israel tried land for peace and got only war and terror is doubly misleading. After failing to stem their violent assaults in Oslo’s early years, Arafat’s forces effectively reined in the terrorists and cooperated on security with Israel for the three years leading up to Camp David. Israel suffered only a single casualty from Palestinian suicide bombings from October 1997 until October 2000, when these attacks resumed in the months following Camp David’s collapse (according to the Israel Foreign Ministry’s website list of “Suicide and Other Bombing Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles, Sept. 1993”).

On the other hand, Israel never stood up to the radical Jewish Greater Land of Israel movement, continuing to build settlements and to strengthen its hold in areas where millions of Palestinians live and seek an independent state. And far from having granted Palestinians real mastery over their own lives, Israel allowed them full control over only 18 percent of the West Bank during the Oslo decade.

Back at the “West Wing,” national security adviser Kate Harper countered McGarry: Could the United States devise a strategy with Israel to strengthen Palestinian moderates and democratic reformers, offering political incentives to boost their popularity and Israel’s security?

Harper inspires a blockbuster script for the real West Wing:

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• United States-allied Arab states like Egypt and Jordan, along with the European Union and the U.N. secretary general, should ratchet up the pressure on Arafat to yield more authority over Palestinian security bodies to the democratic reformers and doves who have been challenging Arafat’s near-monopoly on power, in the wake of continuing unrest in the territories.

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• Palestinian reformers must demonstrate that they can be partners by further challenging Arafat to relinquish control over security.

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• The administration should insist on a timeline and a mechanism for monitoring and enforcing Sharon’s fulfillment of his written promises to Bush to immediately remove settlement outposts, enact a comprehensive settlement freeze and remove those checkpoints that have no real defense value for Israel.

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• The United States, Egypt and Jordan should train and equip a new Palestinian force, as now proposed, while U.S. monitors oversee a renewed Palestinian effort at security cooperation with Israel.

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• Instead of releasing Palestinian detainees to Islamic extremists like Hezbollah, Israel should free a sizable contingent of high-value Palestinian political prisoners to the moderates.

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• The United States should work to convert Sharon’s unilateral plan to encompass a redeployment of Israeli forces away from Palestinian cities back to their September 2000 positions.

This strategy would pave the way for Palestinian elections, enabling the moderates to gain fresh legitimacy and new powers — especially increasing control over a consolidated Palestinian security body — through the ballot box.

In exchange for an effective truce and a sustained Palestinian anti-terror campaign, Israel should withdraw progressively from all of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, removing both settlers and armed forces, genuine de-occupation steps it neither proposed nor took before. It should coordinate a withdrawal from areas of the West Bank and Gaza with Palestinian leaders who are willing and able to take security responsibility for areas Israel evacuates.

Helping to empower Palestinian pragmatists would mean co-opting Arafat, who still controls most Palestinian security groups and without whose consent no progress is possible. The reformers’ summer rebellion, triggered in anticipation of Sharon’s disengagement initiative, has challenged Arafat’s lock on power, without seriously weakening his stranglehold on the pace of domestic reform, as well as on peace and security issues with Israel.

Paradoxically, by working with a newly elected Palestinian government under Arafat, who would also likely be re-elected as P.A. president, the United States would invigorate democratic reformers who will be better positioned to erode Arafat’s authority and curb violence.

Harper’s more realistic strategy for peace sounds remarkably like the Bush administration’s “road map” peace plan. But Bush willingly sabotaged his own plan by acceding to Sharon’s unfaithful reading of its terms. Under the guise of the war on terror, Bush acquiesced in Sharon’s resumption of targeted killings during last summer’s Palestinian cease-fire, and raised little protest when Sharon failed to dismantle the 51 settlement outposts built since his election, as the plan requires.

Under the Harper plan, Israeli actions would no longer be conditioned on Palestinian fulfillment of unattainable demands but performed in tandem with Palestinian moves that are both necessary and feasible.

In TV land, the moderate Palestinian prime minister reached out to the White House through a secret back channel, floating a new initiative based on U.S.-Palestinian-Israeli cooperation and dialogue, much as the current Palestinian premier, Ahmed Qureia, has overtly done with the Bush administration.

In exchange for his political rehabilitation and a U.S.-Israeli promise to free him from confinement in his West Bank compound, Arafat would deploy his still-hefty prestige among Palestinians to coax the security services to enforce the truce and stop the terror. As recent events have revealed, despite mounting internal challenges, Arafat retains a tight grip on the reins of power. But a U.S. policy freed of tunnel vision could help loosen those reins.

If the Palestinian pragmatists’ way of nonviolence and negotiations can make tangible gains for their people, the moderates may grow stronger, while the influence of Arafat and the extremists is likely to wane.

Pundits who shed crocodile tears over the impotence of Palestinian doves overlook a fundamental truth: The removal of Israeli settlers, troops and checkpoints from the West Bank and Gaza; improvements in Palestinian humanitarian and economic conditions, and an authentic Israeli commitment to resuming final status talks are the stuff from which empowered Palestinian moderates are made.

The next president should follow Bartlet’s lead: smart diplomacy could leverage Israel’s disengagement move into a peace deal and save U.S. influence in the region.

Once the electoral dust settles in November, a new American push to rescue Israelis and Palestinians from four years of carnage will play not only in Peoria, but everywhere in the United States and the world where citizens want to see the United States defeat extremism and take a giant step toward stability and peace in the Middle East.

Mark Rosenblum is founder and policy director of Americans for Peace Now and co-editor with Gidon D. Remba of a forthcoming book, “From Baghdad to Jerusalem: A New Road to Middle East Peace?” Remba, president of Chicago Peace Now, served as senior foreign press translator in the Israel prime minister’s office from 1977-1978 during the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David peace process.

Court Fence Ruling Upholds Rule of Law


In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the United States government could not force the Native American Cherokee tribe out of its Georgia homes and into reservations in Oklahoma. President Andrew Jackson, appalled by the court’s interference in a jurisdiction he considered exclusively his own, vowed that he would ignore the court’s decision with the words: "[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."

The court could not. Jackson pushed ahead with his implementation of the Indian Removal Act, and the Cherokees were force-marched westward. Some 4,000 died along the way.

Jackson’s decision to ignore a Supreme Court ruling is considered a low-water mark in America’s history as a nation governed by the rule of law. But, fortunately, the Jackson precedent did not stand.

By the time the Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to surrender those infamous Watergate tapes, there simply was no possibility that Nixon would respond with a Jacksonesque, "Come and get ’em. I dare you." Today, rulings of the Supreme Court are supreme, although it took many years for us to get to that point.

It has not taken Israel quite as long. Last week, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the route of the security barrier would have to be altered, at significant cost to the state, to eliminate the negative impact the fence had on the lives of some 35,000 Palestinians living adjacent to it. The case was brought by a group of Palestinians, led by the village council of the town of Beit Sourik, just outside Jerusalem.

The unanimous decision stated, "The fence’s current path would separate landowners from tens of thousands of dunams [quarter acres] of land … and would generally burden the entire way of life in the petitioners’ villages."

Adding significance to the ruling is the fact that the court in no way ruled against the concept of the barrier, itself. On the contrary, it endorsed the barrier as a legitimate self-defense measure.

It even conceded that the alterations it was recommending could conceivably reduce security for some Israelis. But, the judges said, "This reduction must be endured for humanitarian considerations."

The judges wrote: "Our job was a difficult one. We are members of Israeli society. Although judges sometimes dwell in an ivory tower, this tower is located inside Jerusalem, which has suffered from unbridled terror. We are aware of the killing and destruction that the terror against the state and its citizens brings. We recognize the need to defend the state and its citizens against terrorism. We are aware that, in the short term, our ruling does not ease the struggle of the state against those who would attack it. This knowledge is difficult for us. But we are judges. When we sit on the bench, we ourselves stand trial…. We are convinced that there is no security without law. Upholding the law is a component of national security."

This decision not only does credit to Israel. It provides a beacon of guidance for all nations struggling to balance security needs and individual rights in the post-Sept. 11 era.

And so does the response of the rest of Israel’s government to the court’s decision. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz both responded that the court had spoken, and that was that. The route of the fence would be altered.

Sharon even addressed the humanitarian considerations that produced the ruling, touching on the justices concern about the olive groves that were being uprooted to make way for the fence.

Speaking to Cabinet ministers, he said, "I don’t know how many of you are farmers. It is very hard when one harms these groves. People invested hard work and sweat here. People invested all of their lives in these groves."

Then, referring to the possibility of legislation overturning the court’s decision, he said, "There will be no law to bypass the High Court of Justice. Forget about it."

So the route of the barrier will be changed. And, the likelihood is that there will be more cases brought to challenge any portion that unnecessarily interferes with the lives of Palestinians. That probably means that the barrier will move closer to the ’67 border, the Green Line.

That is probably good. The barrier that will best accomplish Israel’s security goals — while simultaneously guarding the rights of the Palestinians — is not one that meanders hither and yon through the West Bank, but one with the shortest (and most defensible) lines. A barrier that adheres fairly closely to the Green Line is also the route that defends Israel’s demography to the greatest extent.

The more it strays from the Green Line, the more Palestinians who are included against their will in the Jewish state. That is why the Palestinian leadership says that a Green Line wall is fine with them.

One Palestinian expressed the common sentiment when he said, "Let them build the wall on the Green Line. That is Israel, and any country can build anything it wants on its own territory. But keep it away from my parents’ olive trees."

But all that is commentary. The most significant aspect of the court’s ruling is the ruling itself, and the fact that it will be implemented. The precedent established, for Israel and for all democracies, is a gift to us all.


M.J. Rosenberg, director of policy analysis for the Israel Policy Forum, is a long-time Capitol Hill staffer and former editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report.

Accord Was to Ensure Jewish Majority


The Oslo agreement was the first agreement ever signed between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), intended to put an end to the national struggle that is the heart of the larger Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Olso agreement was the natural continuation of the framework agreements signed at the 1978 Camp David summit between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which also provided the basis for the 1991 Madrid Conference.

But, the talks that I initiated in Oslo contained two unique elements: For the first time, the Palestinian partner was clearly identified as the PLO, and the idea was proposed to transfer to Palestinian control most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, even before elections were held for the Palestinian Authority’s legislative council and leadership.

The Oslo process was intended to save the Zionist enterprise before Israel would control an area where the majority of residents would be Palestinian. Anyone who believes that Israel must be a Jewish and democratic state must support the establishment of a border between Israel and the Palestinian side — preferably by consent rather than by unilateral measures.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin understood this and gave his support to the Oslo process. He faced opposition from a right-wing camp that presented itself as nationalist but did not propose any solution that would guarantee a Jewish and democratic future for Israel.

The interim measures did not accomplish their goal — that is, a final peace agreement — because of efforts by elements on both sides.

On the Palestinian side, the extremist religious organizations understood that Israeli-Palestinian peace would be the end of the road for them, and they acted to undermine the process through violence. The more difficult the conditions became in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the more public support these organizations gained.

On the Israeli side, it was the right wing — in particular, extremist settlers — who did whatever they could to foil a final status settlement that would divide the Land of Israel.

Attempts to attribute the past three years of violence to the Oslo agreement are characteristic of people who did not believe in the agreement in the first place and who believe that any agreement with the enemy is a surrender that ultimately will engender more violence.

I am not saying that the Oslo agreement was free of flaws. But those flaws were not the result of an innocent belief that the five-year interim period would build such confidence and esteem between Israelis and Palestinians that it would be easy to reach a final status settlement.

In my opinion, there were two flaws in the Oslo Agreement and its implementation:

First, the fact that no reference was made to the freezing of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — the Palestinians accepted Rabin’s personal commitment to halt the construction of new settlements — created an opening that a subsequent right-wing government used to build new settlements, though it clearly was not the original intent of the agreement.

Second, Israel did not give sufficient importance to incitement in the Palestinian media, thinking it was a trend that would pass when the final status agreement was signed. This incitement played a significant role in the Palestinians’ return to violence in 2000.

Both sides blame the other for the process’ failure, though the Palestinians’ choice of violence means they have the greater share of blame.

But our future does not lie in reciprocal blaming. If we want to secure the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, we must do it before there is a Palestinian majority under Israeli control.

If the Palestinians want a state with a secular and pragmatic leadership, they must do it before Hamas and Islamic Jihad conquer the hearts of the people.

We have no time. The only effective way to do this is to complete the Oslo process and reach the final status agreement as quickly as possible.


Yossi Bellin was minister of justice in Ehud Barak’s government and one of the architects of the Oslo agreement.

There’s No Alternative to Pursuing Peace


The bus bombing in Jerusalem demonstrates, as nothing else could, that there is no alternative to implementing President Bush’s “road map” in all its parts. That means that the Palestinian Authority has to live up to its commitment to shut down the terror groups once and for all, while the Israeli government has to implement a full and complete settlements freeze and allow Palestinians freedom of movement within their own areas.

Of course, following the act of mass murder on Aug. 20, it is hard to imagine that we can just go back to where we were a short time ago. And, in a critical sense, we shouldn’t.

The process that began at the Aqaba summit has simply not worked. Yes, there was relative calm in Israel. For the first time in almost three years, Israelis felt secure enough to dine in sidewalk cafes, enjoy vacations throughout the country and watch the shekel and commodities traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange soar in value.

Palestinians saw some of the hated checkpoints dismantled, which meant somewhat increased ability to move freely in Gaza and Bethlehem. They also welcomed home some of the prisoners released by Israel.

But something fundamental was lacking: goodwill. As has often been said, peace is not merely the absence of war (although the absence of war is a good start). Peace entails the determination to break with the past and begin the process of reconciliation.

The Aqaba peace process was sorely lacking in that determination. Start with the United States, which remains essential in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. Without Bush, there would have been no Aqaba process at all. The road map is his road map. It is, in fact, nothing more or less than a codified version of his June 24, 2002, speech.

Without Bush’s efforts, there is virtually no chance that Mahmoud Abbas would have become the Palestinian prime minister or that significant steps would have been taken to push Yasser Arafat aside and begin creating a semblance of Palestinian democracy.

But the United States has not done nearly enough to ensure that Israelis or Palestinians live up to the commitments they made at Aqaba. On one day it appeared that the United States would accept nothing less than Abbas’ dismantling of the terror groups; the next, signals were sent that perhaps dismantling was an unrealistic goal and that it was OK if Abbas simply used the powers of persuasion to make the killers stop.

The same on-and-off approach was applied to the Israelis. One day, the United States was insisting that Israel dismantle the hilltop outposts; the next day, we were closing our eyes as new outposts were put up and settlements were expanded.

The same applied to the security wall. First, the United States made clear that we would not permit the wall to heavily encroach on Palestinian areas well beyond the green line; then we just looked away.

Not surprisingly, Israelis and Palestinians took advantage of the United States’ vacillation to drag their feet about living up to their respective commitments. If the Palestinians did little or nothing — as the Israelis claim — to confront the terror groups, Israel did little or nothing — as the Palestinians claim — to take down the outposts, stop settlement expansion and eliminate the checkpoints that separate one Palestinian village or town from another.

Neither side demonstrated enough interest in satisfying the other’s basic needs: Israel’s need for security from terror and the Palestinian need to achieve freedom of movement. No, each side was playing solely to the U.S. audience. So long as Washington was appeased, Israelis and Palestinians kept doing what they were doing. Feeling little if any pressure, they simply bought time.

And time is what ran out Aug. 20.

Some people are already saying that the road map is dead and that it’s time to understand that peace is unattainable. They are wrong.

They are wrong, because the alternative to peace is an Israel that comes to accept living in constant fear, with a no-growth, no-tourist economy and a no-hope future. They are wrong, because for Palestinians the alternative to peace requires acceptance of a situation in which a 30-minute trip to the doctor’s office takes four hours, because of Israeli checkpoints, and where living conditions are as dire as in sub-Saharan Africa. Neither side will accept that.

But each side must understand that that is their fate if they allow a return to the status quo of 33 months ago.

The process must continue, but it is unrealistic to expect the Bush administration to do it alone, even if it had the inclination to do so. The two peoples have to decide that they want to achieve some form of reconciliation.

Maybe the word peace is too grand. And, after all, it wasn’t peace that was achieved during the past month — before Aug. 19 — but it was a start. It was a start that saved lives and created hope. It was something — just not enough.

Achieving more will require the Bush administration to continue doing what it started to do at Aqaba but to do it with considerably more vigor and consistency. But, even more, it requires the two sides to look into the abyss and understand that the name of the game is not pleasing the United States — it is rescuing their own futures.

Don’t do it for Bush. Do it so that your own kids — like those innocent children who died on that bus — can be free of those terrible nightmares that, all too often, do not disappear in the morning light.


M. J. Rosenberg, policy analysis director for the Israel Policy Forum, is a longtime congressional staffer and former editor of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Near East Report.

$5 Million Tug of War


The question in Orange County Superior Court is: Did the Israeli government con Simon Lechtuz, an apparently penniless recluse, out of $5 million by reneging on a deal to bury him in the Jewish State, or are relatives of the lifelong bachelor trying to divvy up the unexpected fortune of a man they reportedly ignored while he was alive?

There is agreement on some basic points. Lechtuz was born in 1912 in Warsaw, Poland, emigrated to Palestine in 1924 and served in the British army during World War II.

Lechtuz came to California in 1950, settled in San Pedro and made a living bartering and trading leftover flour sacks and steel drums. About 15 years ago, he moved to the Leisure World retirement community in Laguna Hills, where to his neighbors he appeared destitute, disheveled and eccentric, frequently rummaging through trash containers.

In court papers, Leisure World resident Jonel Konstantin said of Lechtuz: "I felt sorry for him. People avoided him because of his dirty appearance, his difficult foreign accent, his lack of personal hygiene and his odd, even weird, behavior. He looked like he didn’t have a dime, and he would wear the same clothes day after day."

On Oct. 9, 2000, Lechtuz was found slumped over a garbage can in front of a supermarket. He died three weeks later at the age of 88. Orange County officials, unable to locate any next of kin, arranged to have him buried in a local, secular cemetery.

Nobody suspected that Lechtuz had invested the profits from his secondhand bartering and peddling in real estate and municipal bonds, amassing a fortune of $5 million. Nobody, that is, but the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, which Lechtuz contacted in 1994 to discuss a bequest.

In his will’s final version, he would leave roughly $1 million each to the Israeli army, navy and air force, as well as to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Hadassah Medical Organization. In return, Lechtuz asked that after his death, his body be flown to Israel for a military, or at least Jewish, burial.

For the next four years, negotiations continued between Lechtuz and lawyers Susan Greenberg and Marc Stern, representing the Israeli government, according to court documents filed by relatives contesting the bequest to Israel.

According to a will drafted in 1997, Lechtuz stated, "It is my wish that I [be] buried in a military cemetery in the State of Israel. If, however, only active members of the military can be buried in such a cemetery (as I have been advised is the current policy), then I wish to be buried (or ‘must be buried’ according to another version) in accordance with Jewish law in a cemetery in Haifa, Israel."

Lechtuz’s numerous nieces and nephews in Haifa and Los Angeles were unaware of his death until informed by lawyers for the Israeli government while adjudicating the will. When the relatives learned that he had been buried in Orange County, they raised $15,000 to have his body exhumed and re-buried in a Haifa cemetery, according to their attorney, Dan Maccabee.

In the current lawsuit, Maccabee says that Israel spent $5,000 to process Lechtuz’s will and trust, but then reneged on its promise to bury the recluse in Haifa. He also maintains that six months after signing the will benefiting Israel, Lechtuz contacted his own lawyer and drew up a different will leaving his estate to his nieces and nephews. However, before the will reached Lechtuz for his signature, he collapsed and subsequently died, Maccabee said.

Attorney Michael Greene, now representing the Israeli government, said that his client accepted the bequest without strings, and never formally promised to bury Lechtuz in Haifa. He also countered a charge by Yoseffa Teitel of Woodland Hills, a niece of Lechtuz, that the Israeli government hounded Lechtuz to sign the will, while his mental and physical condition was deteriorating.

On the contrary, "Mr. Lechtuz was a strongly independent guy," Greene said. "He knew what he wanted" and purposely cut his relations out of his will. Greene also protested that the dispute should properly be settled in court, rather than in the press.

The case is being heard by Superior Court Judge James P. Gray in Santa Ana and is expected to last three weeks.

Is France Anti-Semitic?


It has become something of a cliché among Jews here in America, and in Israel as well, that Europe is now experiencing a virulent new wave of anti-Semitism. The Europeans are certainly well-practiced at the art of Jew-hating and the overly anti-Israel tilt of the Continent’s political elites and media — as well as some in Great Britain — lead credence to the idea of a growing anti-Semitic tide.

Nowhere is the concern about the new anti-Semitism more acute than in France, home to Europe’s largest Jewish population and, for generations, one of the primary linchpins of Jewish culture worldwide. Yet before we begin to cancel our trips to France and dump its fine wines into sewers on Fairfax Avenue, we might do well to look more carefully at the realities there, and what they might well mean for the future of Jewry here.

Seeking an answer to the question of resurgent anti-Semitism in France, my girlfriend Mandy, herself the daughter of a French Holocaust survivor, went to visit a man who should know — Serge Klarsfeld. As we traveled up the wrought-iron elevator to his offices a few minutes walk from the Champs d’Elysee, we both expected to hear Klarsfeld, the identifier of Klaus Barbie and numerous French Nazi collaborators, telling us of a horrific déjà vu.

Yet for all his concern, Klarsfeld, a self-possessed fireball of energy, did not see anything like the wave of anti-Semitism that gripped Europe during the first half of the 20th century. The anti-Israel tone of the French government and media troubled him, as did the rise of attacks on synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

But the early 2000s are not the 1930s, he insists. Even the surprising showing of Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the National Front who shocked the world by making it into the presidential runoff this spring against center-right leader Jacques Chirac, did not strike Klarsfeld as an epochal event.

Immigrants, mostly Arabs, were the primary target of Le Pen’s campaign, Klarsfeld suggests, not the country’s highly assimilated Jewish population. "Le Pen is anti-Semitic but his campaign was not anti-Jewish," Klarsfeld suggests. "And the people who voted for him were less anti-Semitic than he was. People voted for him for other reasons. They wanted to protest crime and other things."

Indeed, despite the near hysteria that surrounded Le Pen’s strong showing, Klarsfeld believes the kind of historical anti-Semitism represented by Le Pen is dying out, not only in France but throughout Europe. "Le Penism," he believes, "will not survive Le Pen."

But if the traditional sources of anti-Semitism are weakening, Klarsfeld is more concerned about a new form, one which draws from different political and social streams. It stems from opposition not to Jews as religious heretics — the source of the Inquisition — or as master manipulators of capitalism, as asserted by the Nazis and many of 20th century anti-Semites, but as defenders of the embattled Jewish state.

Among non-Muslim Frenchmen, this form of anti-Semitism rarely adopts the rhetoric of overt Jew-hatred, but instead turns a blind eye to its expression within the Arab world or among Arabs who live in France. Its aim is not to put to death Europe’s Jews, but clearly would tolerate the end of the inconvenient state the Jews have established in the Middle East. Much of this is based on just old-fashioned European realpolitik, the desire to pander to oil interests and, whenever possible, push a thumb in the eye of America.

"The problem," Klarsfeld says, "is that there are 1.5 billion Muslims, 1.5 billion Christians and 16 million Jews. The problem is one of numbers."

A similar demographic logic works increasingly at home, too. In France itself there are now upwards of 6 million to 8 million Muslims and only 600,000 Jews. In parts of France, such as Paris or Marseilles, Muslims make up as many as one-third to one-half the people in their teens and 20s. Today the Muslims lack strong organization — indeed their leaders speak of hoping to follow the Jewish model of communalism — but they have growing numbers that can not be ignored. They are emerging as a key "swing" vote in French elections and politicians inevitably will pander to them.

As in Germany, Holland, Spain and other European countries, there are elements in Muslim France, including those born there and holding French citizenship, who are sympathetic and even participants in the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-American terror networks. The best known of these is Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been accused of a direct role in the Sept. 11 plot. "There was certainly some pro-Bin Laden sentiment," asserts Charlotte Rotman, who covers immigration for the left-wing newspaper Liberation, "and many felt the U.S. had it coming."

Although most Muslims assuredly do not participate or even support such horrific acts, sympathy for the Palestinians, hatred for Israel and America are not unusual at all. Virtually none have condemned terrorism, before or after Sept. 11. Rotman suggests that former Premier Lionel Jospin lost many Arab votes when he called Hezbollah a "terrorist organization." Defection of Arabs, and left-wing voters, is what doomed Jospin in the first round, handing the then-ruling socialists a humiliating defeat.

This clearly creates a difficult context for pro-Israel advocacy. Although the French public tends to be anti-Arab in its sentiments, elite Frenchmen across a broad spectrum — including the current center-right government — see integrating the Arabs as a priority; the Jews, largely economically successful and culturally integrated, are not seen as worrying overmuch about. "We want to prove to them [the French Arabs] that democracy is the way," explained one top bureaucrat. "We need to give the Arabs here a job and chance."

Another major change has been the shift of anti-Israel, and to some extent anti-Semitic, sentiments to the left. Traditionally, the left was friendly to Israel and was the political home of many Jews. Leon Blum, the first Jewish premier of France back in the 1930s, was also a socialist. Anti-Semitism was largely the province of the right and defending Jews part of the mythology of "red" France.

Now this has changed, even among some Jews, including Mandy’s filmmaker cousin. Over a delightful lunch along the Seine, this well-heeled, well-educated and utterly assimilated 30-something producer blamed both Israel and French Jews for exacerbating bloodshed in the Middle East and needlessly offending French Muslims. To him, the kippah-wearing defenders of Israel were not too far from National Front bully boys.

The views of this cousin, ironically himself the grandchild of survivors, are not likely shared by a majority of French Jews. But they are widespread on the left, where sympathy for the Arab minority in many ways resembles traditional American leftist identification with African Americans and other "people of color." The growing anti-American, anti-globalization movement in France is now also increasingly anti-Israel as well. To participate in "progressive" circles, you often have to take the whole package.

Indeed, among French Jews there now seems to be a sharp divide between the most assimilated, who largely either oppose Israel or, more often, simply avoid involvement, and those, increasingly Orthodox, who strongly identify with the current Israel government. The seeming dominance of Israel by Likud and its ultranationalist, even racist, religious allies can only drive the assimilated Jews, particularly on the left, away from both Zionism and communal involvement.

Does any of this have relevance here in America? More than we may like to think. As the Israeli government, under the pressure of constant terrorist attacks, grows increasingly right-wing, it will become harder for liberal and even centrist Jews to identify with it. The strong support for Israel on the American political right, particularly among Christians, is further confounding leftist Jews, who seem horrified to see the Jewish state so strongly defended by religious conservatives.

Many liberal Jews, particularly in the older generation, also need to recognize that the global left-wing embrace of the Palestinian cause will have an enormous impact on the next generation of "progressives" now being indoctrinated by the ’60s retreads who dominate the social science and humanities programs at many schools. We already see well-funded leftists, at major universities and in organizations like the Bus Riders Union, openly advocating positions that are clearly anti-Israel.

It would also be foolhardy to ignore the long-term impact of America’s own growing Muslim population, one which will soon or which may have already passed that of the Jews in this country. Although less heavily Arab than their French counterparts, this population, including a large number of African Americans, is largely anti-Israel and, in a few districts at least, a potentially important political force.

Of course, America is not yet close to France or Europe as a whole in supporting the new anti-Semitism. But it may not take long for it to come to fruition — particularly if Jews here refuse to see where the threat is coming from, which is largely on the left and increasingly inside our own society. In France, the process is probably too far gone to stop fervent anti-Israel sentiment from hardening, but here, we can still take steps, on the campuses, the political parties and the foundation boards to fight the new anti-Semitism and prevent Israel’s only reliable ally from following the example of Europe.

World Briefs


Peres to D.C.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is planning to visit Washington next week. Peres will meet with White House and State Department officials on Aug. 1. He will be in Washington at the same time as Jordan’s King Abdullah, though there are no plans for the two to meet. Peres and Abdullah will be attending an international conference in Aspen, Colo., before they travel to Washington.

Palestinians Using Fertilizer to Build
Bombs

Palestinian terrorist groups have begun using a compound from fertilizers to build more powerful bombs, according to Israeli security sources. The sources said the new chemical compound can produce a more powerful blast and is less dangerous to work with than materials previously used, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported. Security officials are particularly concerned because the compound, urea nitrate, is prepared from fertilizers that Israel was exporting to Palestinian areas for agricultural purposes.

Rabin’s Daughter Resigns

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof resigned Tuesday to protest the Labor Party’s continued presence in the government. In her resignation letter, which has yet to take effect, Rabin-Pelossof said she could not remain in the government, charging it was not carrying on the diplomatic legacy of her father, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin-Pelossof’s decision came on the heels of Trade Minister Dalia Itzik’s disclosure that she is considering giving up her Cabinet seat to become Israel’s ambassador to London.

State Dept. Opposes Weapon Sale

The U.S. State Department reportedly is concerned about Israel’s plans to sell its Arrow anti-missile system to India. Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to raise the issue during an upcoming visit to India, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. U.S. officials fear the sale will exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan, the paper said. Because the Arrow missile program was developed jointly by Israel and the United States, American approval is required for the sale.

Israel Transfers Money to P.A.

Israel has transferred tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Monday. Peres told Army Radio that in recent weeks, Israel had transferred to the P.A. tax revenues the Israeli government froze after the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. He said Israel was ready to hand over more than 10 percent of the total owed to the Palestinians if the money is used for its intended purposes, and not diverted to fund terrorism.

Deportation Plan Rejected

Israel’s attorney general rejected a plan to deport the relatives and friends of terrorists from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. Elyakim Rubinstein said the plan amounts to collective punishment and is therefore illegal. He did, however, approve deportations on a case-by-case basis if it is proven that the deportee aided the terrorist or was involved in terrorist activity.

School Sued Over Koran

The University of North Carolina is being sued over a requirement that incoming freshman read portions of the Koran. Three students and a Christian group, the Virginia-based Family Policy Network, filed a lawsuit Monday, charging that the requirement impinges on students’ religious rights. School officials said the requirement, which was instituted because the topic of Islam is timely, was not intended to promote Islam.

Restitution Shake-up

A leader of Holocaust restitution efforts around the world is proposing an organizational shake-up. Israel Singer, the president of the Claims Conference and the co-chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, is expected to suggest a partial merger of the two groups to make restitution efforts more efficient. However, some officials attending the Claims Conference meeting in Luxembourg this week worry that such restructuring would not resolve larger debates on how Holocaust restitution money should be distributed.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

A group of American Jewish singles arrived in Israel in search of Jewish partners. The 32 singles are on a 10-day trip organized by the Jewish singles Web site Jdate.com and Birthright Israel, which offers free, first-time trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26. The American group will meet several groups of Israeli singles during their stay. The American group is two-thirds men and one-third women, an imbalance that organizers attributed to the security situation in Israel.

‘Jewish Jordan’ to Play in Israel

“The Jewish Jordan” has signed a deal to play basketball in Israel. According to the Baltimore Jewish Times, Tamir Goodman, an observant Jew, has signed a three-year contract to play with Maccabi Tel Aviv, beginning this fall. Goodman, 20, left the basketball team at Towson University in Maryland last winter following an altercation with his coach. The 6-foot-3-inch guard initially drew attention while in high school because he plays with a kippah and refuses to play on the Sabbath.

Briefs by Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

To Catch a Terrorist


When Uri Tauber went to a party as a young man, before checking out the availability of girls or drinks, he would first compute in his mind how much dynamite it would take to blow up the place.

This unusual preoccupation stood Tauber in good stead while serving with an elite Israeli commando unit, after joining his country’s intelligence service, and now as a private anti-terrorism expert and consultant.

"To catch a terrorist, you have to think like a terrorist," he pointed out during an interview at the Canoga Park offices of The Chameleon Group, a full-service security organization founded and staffed by Israelis.

Tauber was in town to participate in the one-day Security Forum 2002, co-sponsored by Chameleon and the Israeli Economic Mission in Los Angeles.

The forum drew 170 officials, representing the FBI, sheriff, police and other law enforcement agencies, aerospace companies, port authorities, private security companies, and such diverse organizations as Amtrak, UCLA and the John Paul Getty Trust.

"There are some things Americans can learn from Israelis, not because we’re more intelligent but because, unfortunately, we have had more experience," said Tauber, a heavyset man of 51 wearing a turtleneck sweater and horn-rimmed glasses.

Through such bloody experience, Israelis have developed cutting-edge technology in the battle against terrorism.

An example, Tauber said, is a sophisticated computer and surveillance system to protect shopping malls and sports stadiums. The system integrates aerial photography, constant monitoring on the ground and simulation of worst-case scenarios with training and testing of security personnel.

The system is still evolving, but has been implemented at the Knesset in Jerusalem and other sites in Israel.

Just as important is to raise every citizen’s awareness level to terrorist threats, said Muky Cohen, Chameleon’s CEO, who helped found the 10-year-old company that now has operatives and training projects in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

"There are limits to what the police can do, so every trained eye is needed," said Cohen. "Citizens must know what to look for, as well as the risks they might encounter."

Complementing personal awareness is the need to enhance physical protection. "Every new Israeli apartment house must have a bomb shelter and an airtight room," Cohen said.

As problem solvers, Americans and Israelis bring different virtues to the battle against terrorism.

"Americans are better at organizing, and we are better at improvising," Tauber said.

When confronted with a problem, Israelis will say, "Let’s somehow fix it immediately," he noted. Americans tend to move more deliberately, looking first at the budget, then at likely liability and marketing possibilities, and only then fixing the problem.

Since Sept. 11, U.S. government agencies are learning to move faster, but most private firms are still lagging behind, Tauber said.

The first step in gauging the vulnerability of any potential target, from a private business to a government installation, is a threat analysis. "Where other people might see a fence, our job is to look for the holes in the fence," he said.

World Briefs


Syria OKs Saudi Proposal

Syria’s president backed a Saudi plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. After making negative comments about the plan earlier in the week, Bashar Assad gave his approval during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, when he was given assurances by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah that Syrian and Palestinian interests that a complete withdrawal from the Golan Heights and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees would be included in the plan. The initiative, floated by Abdullah last month, offers Israel ties with the Arab World if the Jewish state withdraws to the boundaries that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Death Toll Rising

Two Israeli soldiers and seven Palestinians were killed Wednesday as the army retaliated for a Hamas rocket attack a day earlier on a Negev city. Three other soldiers were wounded. At least seven Palestinians were reported killed in a series of Israeli air, sea and ground offensives in Gaza that came in retaliation for the missile attack on Sderot in which three Israeli children were wounded. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s home in Gaza City and a U.N.-run school for the blind were damaged in the air strikes. Israel also launched attacks at Palestinian security targets in the West Bank. In a West Bank village, three Palestinian students were wounded when Israeli soldiers fired toward villagers. The army said the convoy had come under fire.

Pearl Memorial Held at Wall

A memorial service was held on Tuesday at the Western Wall for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Among those attending Tuesday’s service were members of Pearl’s family, Religious Affairs Minister Asher Ohana and Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior. Pearl’s grandmother said during the ceremony that Pearl had a warm Jewish heart. “All he really wanted to do is mend the world,” she said.

Holocaust Conference Planned

The Third International Conference on “The Legacy of Holocaust Survivors” is planned for April 8-11 at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, organized jointly by Yad Vashem and the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, and with the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Over 600 dignitaries, scholars, survivors and educators from around the world are scheduled to attend. The conference will focus on the moral and universal messages of the Holocaust, the legacy of the survivors and their contribution to society, with 120 educational workshops planned.

Nixon, Graham Knock Jews

Former President Richard Nixon believed that Jews had too much influence in government. Nixon called Jews “untrustworthy” and decided to reduce the number of Jewish political appointees in his second term, according to excerpts from hundreds of hours of tapes recorded in 1972 and recently released by the U.S. National Archives.

The president complained of a “terrible liberal Jewish clique” and said, “Look at the Justice Department, it’s full of Jews.” Nixon also was convinced Jews had control of the media, claiming that 95 percent of reporters were Jewish. The Rev. Billy Graham apologized last Friday for a 1972 conversation with Nixon in which he said the Jewish “stranglehold” of the media was ruining the country and must be broken. “Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”

Rabbi Pleads to Porn Charges

Atlanta-area Rabbi Juda Mintz pleaded guilty to having child pornography on his temple computer, according to The Associated Press. Mintz, 59, faces more than two years in prison for possessing at least 10 computer files containing photographs of minors engaging in sexual acts. Mintz allegedly had the files while serving as spiritual leader of Mount Freedom Jewish Center in Randolph, N.J. Mintz’s lawyer told the AP that Mintz will never serve as a rabbi again and is now working as a clerk in a convenience store.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Defending Israel


The organized North American Jewish community’s reaction to the violent events in the Middle East can be summed up in a few words: solidarity with Israel.

As displeasure with the Jewish state’s response to Palestinian rioters mounted across the world, the Jewish community – mainly through op-eds and advertisements in newspapers, and in community-organized rallies – sprang into action.

To be sure, there were scattered attempts at fence-mending – as in New York, where Arab and Jewish community leaders signed a statement of unity.

But for the most part, talk of coexistence and peace has taken a back seat to defending the Jewish state in the face of what is seen as unfair criticism.

Local Jewish communities – including federations and community relations councils – were sponsoring pro-Israel rallies slated for later in the week.

The largest of the rallies was expected to be held Thursday outside the Israeli Consulate in New York, but communities across the United States and Canada – from Boca Raton, Fla., to Calgary – were planning to hold similar demonstrations later in the week.

The immediate goal of the rallies “is to try and reach across the ocean and give the people of Israel a sense that the American Jewish community is with them in this difficult time,” said Martin Raffel, the associate executive vice chairman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), an umbrella group of community relations councils.

Ads in The New York Times this week expressing solidarity with Israel and announcing the New York rally were sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as well as by the United Jewish Communities, the JCPA and the UJA-Federation of New York.
Leaders of all these groups participated in a conference call Tuesday – with 250 participants – in which activists across North America were encouraged to send op-eds to local newspapers and encouraged to hold rallies.

The demonstrations “send a strong message to the American government and the American public that the Jewish community is deeply concerned about these developments and feels strongly about the need to press Yasser Arafat to act responsibly,” Raffel added.

Some 700 people attended a rally outside the PLO mission organized by the Coalition for Jewish Concerns – AMCHA on Sunday in support of Israel, according to Rabbi Avi Weiss, the president of the group.
AMCHA sponsored a smaller rally on Tuesday at which it called on President Clinton to find those responsible for the death of Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, a U.S.-born Jew living on the West Bank who was killed over the weekend.

Meanwhile, other Jewish activists are staging rallies to express a different sentiment.

In New York, longtime Jewish peace activists were planning to hold a counter-rally at the Israeli consulate.
The need for a counter-rally stemmed from a need some Jews felt to stand up against some of the abuses that Israel has committed, said Donna Nevel, one of the rally’s organizers.

“As Jews, we do not support what the Israeli government is doing,” she said, referring to the more than 80 Palestinians killed in the recent clashes.

At a similar rally outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Sunday, the eve of Yom Kippur, organizers atoned for “justifying the use of excessive lethal force” and called for “an improvement in this year which has begun so tragically.”

“We’re not pointing fingers,” said David Shneyer, one of the vigil’s organizers. “We’re expressing our anguish, our frustration and our hope for a peaceful solution.”

The tragic events in the Middle East – and the world’s reactions to them – also prompted several organizations to take out newspaper advertisements.

In advertising for the New York rally in the Times, the Conference of Presidents said it deplored “dangerous and exploitative use of violence by the Palestinian Authority to achieve political gains.”
A similar view was expressed by Hadassah and the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) in their ads.

In its advertisement that by Tuesday had run in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, the AJCommittee attacked the Palestinian leadership for having “deliberately overblown” Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon’s Sept. 28 visit to the Temple Mount, which sparked the violence.

The ads are read not only by the American government, but by diplomats and their staffs as well.
The AJCommittee was also reacting to the U.N. Security Council’s resolution passed over the weekend that condemned the “excessive use of force” against Palestinians without mentioning Israel by name.

The group said it was sending letters expressing its displeasure with the resolution to foreign ministers from the 15 countries on the Security Council.

“We were just stunned that when Israel is under attack,” that hours later the “Security Council could pass a resolution focusing on excessive use of violence against the Palestinians,” said AJCommittee’s Kenneth Bandler, referring specifically to Hezbollah’s taking three Israeli soldiers hostage on Saturday.
“There’s a feeling that Israel is under assault.”

The Washington Jewish Week contributed to this story.

Stopping the Violence


It’s no secret that Israelis experience many of the same social ills that Americans do. However, there has never been an official study to identify the breadth and nature of domestic abuse in the Jewish State… until now.

A survey — the first of its kind in Israel — was recently conducted by the Los Angeles/Tel Aviv Partnership — a coalition formed by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — to help social workers and government welfare bureaus understand the country’s domestic violence and sexual abuse problems, and to prescribe solutions. The domestic violence covered in the findings includes all manner of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Supervised by Dr. Yosefa Steiner and Dr. Minah Zemach, the study is comprised of statistics culled from interviews with anonymous women reached at home during the day. In all, 1,019 households were polled, serving as a representive sample of the total population of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa vicinity. In addition, 101 ultra-Orthodox residences and 100 Arab homes were studied. The research also included information on services available to address social disorders, the degree of coordination between them, and their accessibility to those who require them.

Until the Partnership launched this study, an official survey of Israeli home violence had not been attempted. The initiative for conducting such research was not a question of money, but of timing. Awareness of these issues rose to the surface in recent years, after a dramatic rise in reported child abuse and incest cases from 1990-1993, and some high profile spousal abuse cases that even included murder.

This domestic violence project was a by-product of the Partnership, in conjunction with the Department of Social Welfare and Health of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel (JDC-Israel), and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (the Partnership’s parent organization). A budget for the survey totaled $46,000, with $25,000 of that total budget coming from the Jewish Community Foundation; $15,000 from JDC-Israel; and another $6,000 from the municipality of Tel Aviv.

Says the Partnership’s local chair Herb Glaser, “It’s apparent that the Jewish people have problems in this arena irrespective of geography or economic class or the religious vs. secular component. And we have a mutual problem in both communities, which we didn’t expect to find.”

Both communities are on the minds of the people behind the domestic violence study. Last March, a Partnership symposium invited Israeli field workers to visit agencies within the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles systems. They learned about multicultural populations, family violence court, Jewish shelters, and the county’s Domestic Violence Council — a consortium of community, law enforcement, and social services personnel.

A subsequent gathering last June sent a team of experts to Tel Aviv: a USC School of Social Work professor; representatives from Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Services; Jewish Family Service (JFS) employees; and Fredi Rembaum, director of Israel and overseas relations for the Jewish Federation.

Vivian Sauer, director of Adult and Children Services for the Federation-run JFS, commends the work-in-progress nature of the enterprise: “Personally, I thought it was [an] extremely productive way to bring two communities together and come up with some concrete proposals to work on these areas, based on the needs of these communities.”

Adds Nissan Pardo, Ph.D., who chairs the Partnership’s Los Angeles Health and Human Services Committe, “From the early 20th century, the spirit in Israel is that we’re responsible for each other and that carries over… up till today. There’s more of a common spirit. The way they handle batterers and individuals is very different than what is done here. That is from what we can learn.”

Rembaum also evokes this Israeli theme of collective responsibility: “In Israel, providing [for] the people’s needs is the business of the government and if services aren’t met, they must find a way to provide them.”

In fact, Tel Aviv actually has a program that extricates the male batterer from the household and commits him to counselling services.

“We don’t have that here [in the U.S.],” says Rembaum. “We have jails.”

Rembaum looks forward to the next step in the Partnership’s strategy: “Right now, we are preparing a proposal for funding to implement workplace training in Tel Aviv. Los Angeles representatives will start working with them in the next few months.”

The training will teach employers and supervisors how to identify and treat victims of abuse.

From Israel, Ellen Goldberg, director of Planning and Evaluation for JDC-Israel, communicated to The Journal her pleasure in being involved in this ambitious welfare undertaking. Goldberg reports that USC professionals have been assisting the project on every step of the survey.

Says the administrator, “This has enabled [Los Angeles and Tel Aviv agencies] to understand different perspectives to problems and their solutions.”

As an example of the cross-cultural influence taking place, she cites the establishment of a Tel Aviv counterpart to Los Angeles’ Domestic Violence Council.

“We are bringing fresh approaches to solving problems in each other’s domain,” says Goldberg. “[Ultimately, it will help] create better solutions and services for our respective populations and needs.”


Researchers’ findings include:

* Incidents of domestic violence have taken place in 12.5 percent of all households in Tel Aviv. That’s a high figure, relative to findings in other nations.

* Women were the targets of violence in 7.0 percent of households, while minors were the victims in 17.7 percent. Also high, as are the findings below.

* In two-thirds of the families polled, both women and children have been abused.

* Physical abuse occurred in 10.7 percent homes, while sexual abuse occurred in 2.8 percent of the families sampled.

Mideast


The government is now trying to pass an updated version of the conversion law, which, it claims, gives consideration to Conservative and Reform Jewry. Yet Rabbi Ehud Bandel, leader of the Israeli Conservative movement, says the new proposal “is merely the old conversion law dressed up in new clothes. If it passes, it will strengthen the Orthodox monopoly on conversion and put a stopper in the effort to introduce religious pluralism in Israel.”

Conversion Conflict, Continued

By trying to pass an updated law, Netanyahu’s government is once again on a collision course with the non-Orthodox movements

By Larry Derfner, Tel Aviv Correspondent

Just when everybody thought the conversion law crisis had somehow miraculously faded away, it burst back into the limelight. The Netanyahu government is once again on a collision course with the Conservative and Reform movements — and, by extension, with American Jewry — over the issue.

The government is now trying to pass an updated version of the conversion law, which, it claims, gives consideration to Conservative and Reform Jewry. Yet Rabbi Ehud Bandel, leader of the Israeli Conservative movement, says the new proposal “is merely the old conversion law dressed up in new clothes. If it passes, it will strengthen the Orthodox monopoly on conversion and put a stopper in the effort to introduce religious pluralism in Israel.”

The initial Knesset hearings on the government’s proposal are scheduled for June 22.

In brief, what happened was this: After the Conservative and Reform accepted the Neeman Commission compromise on conversion last January but the Orthodox chief rabbinate rejected it, the Conservative movement’s legal battle was reactivated. On June 4, the Supreme Court ordered the government to declare its intentions: to let the court decide the matter (which could well result in recognition for Conservative and Reform conversions), or to take the matter out of the court’s hands by trying to pass a law in the Knesset.

The government, under pressure from the religious parties, announced that it would go for the law.

But the Netanyahu government sees it cannot pass the original conversion law, because three of its coalition partners — the right-wing Tsomet (Crossroads), centrist The Third Way, and Natan Sharansky’s Yisrael Ba’Aliyah — oppose it. So the government has come up with a new rendering of the conversion law, which, it claims, includes the conciliatory Neeman recommendations.

Under the new proposal, the chief rabbinate would retain sole conversion authority (which it has always enjoyed, but by agreement, which is open to court challenge, and never by law, which is final). However, a new “Jewish studies institute,” set up by the Jewish Agency and administered jointly by the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, would be open to conversion candidates.

Nothing in the proposed new law, however, requires the chief rabbinate to convert candidates who learn Judaism at this institute, and here is where the Conservative and Reform balk.

They note that the chief rabbinate rejected the Neeman recommendations precisely because they were unwilling to have anything to do with an institute where Conservative and Reform authorities could teach Judaism. The law now being proposed by the government leaves it up to the rabbinate whether to convert candidates who pass through the institute — and the rabbinate has already made its position absolutely clear.

Yet Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman is blaming the Conservative and Reform movements for rejecting the compromise attempts and throwing the issue back onto the confrontation path. Bandel, who sat on the Neeman Commission, and other Conservative and Reform leaders accuse Neeman of deliberately misrepresenting their position.

And now, with the government selling its new proposal as having something for everyone — the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform — opponents are having a hard time fighting it in the Knesset.

“It’s a difficult informational challenge because people ask us, ‘How can you oppose a law that includes the Neeman recommendations, when you already accepted the Neeman recommendations?’ And we have to explain to them that the Neeman recommendations called for the chief rabbinate’s agreement, while this law does no such thing. The chief rabbis cannot be forced to recognize us; they can only do so voluntarily. You can’t legislate goodwill.

“I’m very scared. I’m scared that the government is going to succeed in deceiving the Knesset and the Israeli public and the Jewish Diaspora.”

Bandel said that he, too, would prefer that the dispute be settled out of court and out of the Knesset — by agreement between the two sides. But with the failure of the Neeman commission, he says, a new way must be found.