Newsdesk September 23, 2005

Ex-Bush Aide Arrested

A top former American official under arrest for allegedly lying about his relationship with a Jewish lobbyist is accused of using his influence to procure government land for a Jewish school. American agents arrested David Safavian on Monday, three days after he abruptly quit his position as top procurer for the Bush administration. He was arrested for allegedly lying to investigators and obstructing a federal investigation into Jack Abramoff, a Jewish lobbyist suspected of cheating Native American clients out of millions of dollars. In an unrelated case, Abramoff was arrested recently on fraud and conspiracy charges arising from his purchase of gambling boats in Florida. He pleaded not guilty.

According to news reports on Tuesday, when Safavian was chief of staff at the General Services Administration in 2002, he allegedly attempted to secure 40 acres at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland for the Eshkol Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school that Abramoff had established. The GSA administered the land in question. The attempt was unsuccessful. The Eshkol Academy is now out of business.

New Disengagement Proposed

Uzi Dayan, retired former director of Israel’s National Security Council, unveiled a plan for disengaging from the Palestinians this week at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

The plan calls for 32 West Bank settlements to be evacuated and for a temporary border to be established. It would incorporate 28 Palestinian villages into Israel. Dayan estimated that the plan would require the evacuation of some 20,000 settlers — roughly triple the number evacuated from Gaza last month — and that it would cost $3.3 billion.

Dayan was one of the first and most vocal advocates of Israel’s West Bank security fence, which was initially rejected by the Likud government as a de facto border but since has been adopted as a national priority.

“The disengagement from Gaza has brought about the collapse of two basic assumptions in Israeli politics, the idea of Greater Israel and the idea of trading land for peace,” Dayan told reporters. “Neither has stood the test of reality.”

He said Israel had to act unilaterally because a final-status agreement with the Palestinians was unlikely at this stage.

Hamas Softens Tone

Hamas could stop seeking Israel’s destruction if the Jewish state meets Palestinian demands, an official from the terrorist group said. Mohammed Ghazal, Hamas’s senior representative in the West Bank, told Reuters on Wednesday that he envisions a day when his group would enter talks on coexistence with Israel.

“Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we’re talking now about reality, about political solutions,” he said. The Hamas charter calling for Israel’s destruction, Ghazal said, “is not the Koran.”

The comments came as the group tries to present a new, less radical face ahead of its bid to win seats in a Palestinian Authority parliamentary election scheduled for January 2006. Ghazal said Israel must give up all of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem and allow the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees — all demands that Israeli officials rule out. In the past, Hamas officials have spoken of achieving coexistence if Israel meets Palestinian demands. However, this is generally presented as a temporary solution until the Jewish state can be eradicated.

Ethiopians Plan Hunger Strike

Ethiopia’s Falash Mura, descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity but now have returned to Jewish practice, announced plans for a three-day hunger strike to protest delays in bringing them to Israel. Nearly 20,000 Falash Mura remain in Ethiopia.

The Israeli government has pledged to bring over the remaining members of the community, but progress on their immigration has been slow.

Prince Harry Apologizes

Britain’s Prince Harry said that his decision to wear a Nazi uniform to a costume party earlier this year was “a sign of my own immaturity.” In an interview to mark his 21st birthday, the prince apologized once more for the incident — in the run-up to 60th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz — when he was snapped in an outfit complete with a swastika armband.

“Looking back on it now, it was a very stupid thing to do, and I’ve learned my lesson,” he said.

Chabad Opposes Own Rabbi

More than 30 Chabad rabbis affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Communities issued a statement September 15 protesting the election of another Chabad rabbi, Moshe Reuven Azman of Kiev, to serve as Ukraine’s chief rabbi. The rabbis, all based in the region, said it was “illegitimate” and “insulting to the feelings of every believer.” A chief rabbi “can be elected only by rabbis working in Jewish communities of that country,” the statement said. This was in reference to the fact that Azman’s election September 11 was endorsed by a group of secular Jewish leaders but not by any rabbinical authorities. The vast majority of rabbis working permanently in Ukraine these days are Chabad rabbis affiliated with the federation. Azman is Russian born. And unlike other Orthodox rabbis working in Ukraine, he is not affiliated with the Chabad-led federation.

Groups Press on Sudan

In an advertisement that appeared Tuesday in The New York Times, Jewish groups called on President Bush to intensify efforts to end the killings in Sudan. In the advertisement, organized by the American Jewish World Service, Jewish leaders from across the religious and communal spectrum called on Bush to work to expand peacekeeping operations. They also wanted the president to provide additional support to African soldiers in Darfur, the region where government-sponsored militias have killed tens of thousands of people. The ad also called on the United States to increase funds for humanitarian efforts and to help reunify families and rebuild communities.

Anger Over D.C. Team

The Washington Nationals suspended the credentials of a minister who counseled players that Jews were going to hell. The National Synagogue’s rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, met Tuesday with Nationals president Tony Tavares after the Washington Post reported that outfielder Ryan Church was told by a minister that his Jewish former girlfriend was going to hell.

Jon Moeller, a representative from Baseball Chapel, has been temporarily denied access to team facilities, and the team is asking Moeller and Baseball Chapel to disassociate from the comments. “What happened in the locker room was hatred,” Herzfeld said. “Everyone’s allowed to believe what they want, but the moment that hatred comes into the locker room it’s a source of divisiveness.”

Ex-JPost Owner Pleads Guilty

One of the former owners of The Jerusalem Post, David Radler, pleaded guilty to taking part in a plan to siphon millions of dollars from the newspaper’s holding company. Radler pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of mail fraud in a case in which $32 million was siphoned away from Hollinger International Inc. for personal use, The Jerusalem Post reported. In 2003 Radler resigned from Hollinger, which owned newspapers around the world.

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Newsdesk September 23, 2005

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