Newsdesk April 14, 2006

Labor Wants Agency Post

As one of its demands in coalition negotiations, the Labor Party is seeking to regain from Likud the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Two Labor figures, Collete Avital and Haggai Merom, are fighting to take over the quasi-governmental agency, which receives more than $200 million from American Jewish charitable federations to support its mission of facilitating immigration to Israel. Current chairman Ze’ev Bielski, Likud mayor of Ra’anana, has been chairman of the quasi-governmental agency since last summer.

The Kibbutz movement is championing Merom, a former Knesset member, for the post. Associates of Avital, who served in the 1990s as Israel’s consul general in New York, say that Merom is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the Jewish community worldwide. They note that he returned to Labor only recently after joining the now-defunct Center Party several years ago.

Merom countered that he returned to Labor immediately after the dissolution of the Center Party. He boasted of his visits years ago to Jewish communities in North America as a guest of what was then the United Jewish Appeal.

Auction Drops Nazi Item

A body marker from a Nazi concentration camp was removed from an auction in Los Angeles after a Jewish group complained. Los Angeles County removed the Dachau item from a public-estate auction following complaints from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which was alerted to the item by a woman who saw it listed on an auction Web site. It was reportedly in a collection that also included pre-World War II Prussian uniforms and Soviet-era statues of Lenin.

Peace Talks Slated

Israeli and Palestinian public figures will hold informal peace negotiations next month in Morocco. Senior Labor Party lawmaker Ami Ayalon will lead Israel’s delegation to the talks in Casablanca, scheduled to begin in the first week of May. He faces a delegation led by former Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the architects of the informal “Geneva Accord” peace proposal. The talks, which will be hosted by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, aim to establish a dialogue on prospects for coexistence in the absence of formal ties between Israel and the Hamas-led P.A. According to political sources, Ayalon, whose party seems likely to enter Israel’s coalition government, has the blessing of Prime Minister-elect Ehud Olmert because no Hamas members will take part.

Russian Rabbi Eyed

Russian Jewish leaders criticized a lawmaker’s motion to check how one of Russia’s chief rabbis received Russian citizenship. The development concerns Berel Lazar, who is chief Lubavitch emissary in the former Soviet Union and head of the Chabad-led Federation of Jewish Communities, the region’s largest Jewish group. Last week, the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, authorized a committee to file an inquiry with the authorities to clarify why Lazar, an Italian-born American citizen, was made a Russian citizen without having to undergo required naturalization procedures. Boris Vinogradov, a member of the nationalist Motherland Party, proposed the motion. On Monday, the party disassociated itself from the development by saying it never authorized Vinogradov to raise the issue in the Duma. In a statement the same day, the Congress of Jewish Religious Organizations and Communities, often at odds with the federation, criticized what it called the “antisemitic motivation” behind the motion.

Sharon Term Ends

Israel formally brought the comatose Ariel Sharon’s political career to a close.

Top government ministers convened Tuesday to implement a constitutional law in which Sharon, who suffered a crippling stroke in January and is not expected to recover, would be designated “permanently incapacitated.”

Sharon, 78, is in intensive care at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, but doctors eventually may move him to a long-term coma treatment center.

Mideast Scholar Criticized

Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, generally known for his harsh criticisms of Islamists and their supporters, drew criticism this week for two recent columns in The New York Sun in which he criticized Israel’s approach to the Palestinians.

Pipes asserted that “not one of [Israel’s] leading parties offers the option of winning the war against the Palestinians,” and decried Israeli politicians for their tendency to “manage the conflict without resolving it, [and to] seek to finesse war rather than win it.” The columns drew a critical response from Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress – Council for World Jewry.

In a rebuttal published in the April 7 edition of Ha’aretz, Rosen suggested that Pipes’s call for total victory was “short on specifics.”

“Dan Pipes left a big void with his readers,” Rosen told the Forward, explaining his decision to speak out against the comments of a scholar whom he greatly respects. “He suggests that the current Israeli plan will result in something less than victory, but what does he have in mind when he calls for victory?”

In the second of his two columns in the Sun, Pipes wrote that talk of specific tactics was “premature before victory is the policy.” He did, however, reference military strategists Sun-Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz, suggesting that “victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy, which typically means compelling him to give up his war goals.”

Rosen, who backed the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and supports Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s calls for unilateral pullouts from the West Bank, argued that Palestinian acquiescence would come as the result of a “vibrant and viable Jewish country.” Pipes, who believes that withdrawals at this point only will embolden those who oppose Israel, stressed in his columns the need for the Palestinians to “undergo the crucible of defeat.”

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Newsdesk April 14, 2006

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