Jewishupdates's Blog

January 20, 2010

A7News: Voter Backlash Forces Obama to Depend on GOP

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishupdates @ 2:41 pm

logo.jpgShevat 5, 5770 / Wednesday, Jan. 20 ’10

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  1. Voter Backlash Forces Obama to Depend on GOP
  2. Norway, Israel Clash on PA Status in Jerusalem
  3. Hamas Leader Unwelcome in Egypt
  4. Iran Blasts Nuke Plan; Israel Urges ‘Crippling Sanctions’
  5. Maj.-Gen. Yadlin: Turkey Doesn’t Need Israel Anymore
  6. Hareidi Party Joins WZO, Former MK Yigal Bibi Will Represent
  7. Aussie Couple: Green Wedding Gift to the Arava
  8. Sobibor Prisoner Readies to Testify in Demjanjuk Trial

1. Voter Backlash Forces Obama to Depend on GOP

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Massachusetts voters surprised U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday and ended his filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate by strongly backing a little-known Republican candidate, Scott Brown, in a special election.

The President now needs the Republican Party to back his health reform legislation unless he wants to risk a filibuster. The current bill now is in jeopardy, and until Tuesday’s vote, the president felt assured that it would pass in a form acceptable to him.

A longer term blow for President Obama could involve his Middle East policies, which have starkly contrasted with the Republicans’ demand that the Palestinian Authority fulfill its Roadmap obligations before Israel makes yet further concessions.

President Obama last year called Israeli communities in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria “illegitimate,” and later accepted and promoted the Palestinian Authority demand for a total halt in building for Jews in the areas. Leading Republicans have strongly criticized the Obama administration, charging that he is ignoring reality and paving the way for a possible explosion in the Middle East, similar to the Second Intifada that followed the PA’s rejection of an opportunity to establish itself as a state.

The new Republican senator will take the place of Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy, who died last August. Brown’s victory came exactly a year after President Obama’s inauguration, and symbolizes his disintegrating popularity since then. Although personally popular, his rating as a president has sunk following a ballooning government debt, unprecedented aid to failing corporations, the controversial health reform program and setbacks at the hands of Arab and Muslim terrorists in the United States, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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2. Norway, Israel Clash on PA Status in Jerusalem

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Store that Israel will keep the Orient House in eastern Jerusalem closed to the Palestinian Authority. During the same visit to Israel, Store became the first European Union emissary in nine years to meet a PA delegation in eastern Jerusalem by holding talks at the Augusta Victoria hospital near the Mount of Olives.

Store met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ chief of staff Rafiq Husseini at the hospital after Abbas hosted him in Ramallah. No attempt was made to hold discussions at the Orient House, which has become a symbol for the PA’s effort to claim sovereignty over all of eastern Jerusalem where it wants to place the capital of a PA state. Israel barred the PA from the building in 2001, after the Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War, which began a year earlier.

The EU and Russia last week called on Israel to reopen the Orient House and other PA institutions in eastern Jerusalem as a “goodwill” measure to coax Abbas into returning to talks on forming a new Arab state.

Photo: Foreign Ministers Store and Lieberman At a joint press conference of the Norwegian and Israeli foreign ministers, Lieberman asserted, “There will be no more gestures. There is simply no room to talk about opening Orient House, freezing the construction in Jerusalem or any additional gestures. Now it is time for a gesture from the Palestinians.”

The meeting at the hospital was not considered overly significant by Arab think tank analyst Dr. Mahdi Abdel Hadi, who told The Irish Times, “Israel is prepared to close its eyes to a meeting in Augusta Victoria. It’s a hospital; the meeting can be justified on medical grounds. But an Israeli government under [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and Lieberman will never allow Orient House to reopen. No one is taking this seriously.”

Store spoke in mild diplomatic terms at the press conference despite his endorsement last month of a book authored by Norwegian doctors who accused the IDF of purposely tracking down Gaza children in order to kill them in the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign.

See Israel National News opinion article "Growing Norwegian Hostility" by Isi Leibler.

The visiting foreign minister and Lieberman also took opposing views at the press conference concerning the Norwegian government’s decision to celebrate the 150th birthday of Nazi admirer and author Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian Nobel Prize winner.

Store told reporters that Norway contemplated whether it is “possible to commemorate literature without combining the one who wrote the literature with his political views.” He said, "That was the question facing Norway as we were approaching 150 years of the birth of Knut Hamsun, a great author and a hopeless politician.”

Although the reporter had addressed to Store the question on Hamsun, Lieberman volunteered to take issue with him. “I cannot accept the fact that a man who gave away his Nobel Prize in Literature to Goebbels and delivered a eulogy for Hitler should be legitimized in any sort of way, not as a man and not as a writer," Israel’s foreign minister said. “Any attempt to separate his personality from his literature, I think, is an artificial attempt and another try at changing and disregarding history.”

Norway was a close friend of Israel in the 1950 and 1960s, but turned against the Jewish state’s presence in Judea and Samaria after the Six-Day War in 1967. The first of the failed Oslo, Norway Accords was signed in 1993. Norwegian historian Hilde Henriksen Waage wrote in 2002, “Surprisingly enough, it might seem, it was Norway’s traditional position as Israel’s best friend that made the remote country suitable and attractive as a possible mediating partner. And, even more surprising, at least at first glance, it was Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat who took the initiative and brought Norway’s name forward. Already in 1979, Arafat considered Norway an important channel because of – rather than in spite of – its close relations with Israel.”

The conservative Brussel Journals wrote last year that Norwegian government officials’ public statements backing a boycott of Israel left its role as mediator in jeopardy and concluded, “With friends like Norway, who needs enemies?”

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3. Hamas Leader Unwelcome in Egypt

by Hana Levi Julian

Cairo has rolled up the red carpet and announced that Damascus-based Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal is unwelcome in the Egyptian capital. Officials in the Egyptian capital are hoping the ban will exert enough pressure to force Hamas into reconciling with its rival, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction.

Egypt has refused to meet with Mashaal until he cooperates with its efforts to re-establish a PA unity government. The last time external mediators – Saudi Arabian and Egyptian leaders – succeeded in forcing the two factions into a similar framework, the so-called “unity” lasted barely two days. Ultimately it dissolved into the bloody militia war that ended with Hamas seizing total control over Gaza, leaving Fatah as the ruling faction over the PA areas in Judea and Samaria.

Mashaal is also the Hamas official primarily responsible for repeatedly failed negotiations for the release of captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage in Gaza since he was abducted by Hamas-linked terrorists in June 2006.

According to a report published Tuesday in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda, Egypt has made its position clear to a number of Arab states, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Mashaal had apparently appealed to both in hopes they would mediate between Hamas and Cairo.

However, Egypt maintained a firm stance in backing PA Chairman and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, who said he would not meet with Mashaal unless Hamas signed an Egyptian proposal for reconciliation between the two factions. Egypt maintained that it had no objections to receiving a Hamas delegation to sign the document, “as it is and without amendments,” the paper reported.

Kuwait has been working to arrange a reconciliation summit between the two factions as a follow-up to Egypt’s negotiations, Kuwait Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al Sabah told reporters on Sunday. He noted that Abbas and Mashaal had both been to Kuwait in recent weeks to visit separately with its Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

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4. Iran Blasts Nuke Plan; Israel Urges ‘Crippling Sanctions’

by Malkah Fleisher

Iran has rejected a plan brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to swap low-grade uranium for fuel. The Islamic theocracy is opting to proceed with nuclear development.

In a first-time joint meeting in Berlin Monday between the cabinets of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leaders discussed the repercussions for Iran. Netanyahu called for "crippling sanctions" to be enacted against Ahmadinejad and his country. Merkel said that if Iran "does not change", her country would back "wide-ranging sanctions" against it.

She also pressed Israel to stop Jewish growth in Judea and Samaria.

The IAEA draft proposal would seize 70% of Iran’s low-enriched uranium — material which has the potential to be enriched to weapons grade. A year later, the uranium would be returned as refined fuel rods, a product which is difficult to refine for military purposes.

For months, Iranian officials have criticized the plan, which was backed by the US, Russia, China, Britain France, and Germany. Iran offered an alternative to the plan in writing to the IAEA, according to the Associated Press. In its proposal, Tehran agreed to exchange enriched uranium in return for immediate supplies of research reactor fuel.

The Iranian response is seen as a rejection by western diplomats. Iran continues to assert that its nuclear program is peaceful and intended to generate energy.

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5. Maj.-Gen. Yadlin: Turkey Doesn’t Need Israel Anymore

by Gil Ronen

Military Intelligence Chief Major General Amos Yadlin offered an explanation Tuesday for the cooling of relations between Israel and Turkey. Speaking before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yadlin said: “Over the years, issues between Syria and Turkey have been solved and Turkey, for its part, no longer feels the need to be close to Israel.”

"In the past, Turkey wanted to move closer to the West, beyond being accepted into NATO,” he said. “There are still common strategic interests between Israel and Turkey, but it is not the same strategic closeness that existed between the two nations in the past.”

Regarding the looming menace of Iran, Yadlin said that “Iran derailed the engagement, and the international community is now preparing for a round of sanctions. But right now, as long as Iran is not under heavy pressure, it sees no need to give up on its core issue. It continues to advance its nuclear program.”

Regarding the Palestinian Authority (PA), Yadlin said that it “prefers to advance the diplomatic process, but continues to set its conditions for opening negotiations with Israel – namely, freezing construction in Jerusalem as well, restarting negotiations from where they were stopped in [Ehud] Olmert’s term [as Prime Minister], and additional guiding principles that conform with their point of view. In the eyes of Salam Fayyad and Abu Mazen [the prime minister and chairman of the PA, respectively – ed.], the international community needs to impose upon Israel the main points of the agreement before negotiations begin.”

Maj.-Gen. Yadlin was one of the F-16 jet pilots who took part in “Operation Opera,” the attack on Iraq’s nuclear plant, in 1981.

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6. Hareidi Party Joins WZO, Former MK Yigal Bibi Will Represent

by Hillel Fendel

Former National Religious Party Knesset Member Yigal Bibi will be the representative of the World Zionist Organization’s newest member, the hareidi-religious Shas party.

The leadership of the WZO approved the inclusion of Shas on Monday in a majority vote, after a first-ever request by a hareidi-religious party to join the Zionist organization. WZO Treasurer Haggai Merom, a former left-leaning Knesset Member of the Labor Party, said, “This is a historic development.”

The man chosen to represent Shas on the WZO board will be Yigal Bibi, a resident of the Judean community of N’vei Daniel in Gush Etzion, a former mayor of Tiberias – and a former leading member and MK of the religious-Zionist National Religious Party (NRP).

“Shas is the new NRP,” Bibi told Arutz-7 on Tuesday. “Shas is now doing what the NRP once did, fighting for both the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel. Minister Yaakov Margi is responsible for Religious Affairs, Interior Minister Eli Yishai [looks out] for the country’s Jewish character, and Housing Minister Ariel Attias is in charge of building the Land. There is therefore no reason why a party like Shas should not be a part of the body that is responsible for settlement and the Jewish National Fund.”

Shas Recognizes Israel’s "Centrality"
Merom said that in order to be accepted to the WZO, Shas had made some significant changes in its charter – including adopting the “New Jerusalem Program” that recognizes the foundations of Zionism.

The New Jerusalem Program is a plan that recognizes the centrality of the State of Israel and of its capital Jerusalem in Jewish national life. The program was formulated over a long period by the various members of the WZO, and was formally accepted in 2004.

It was also reported that the World Likud, long a WZO member, and Shas had agreed to become a joint WZO faction that will be “World Likud-Shas.”

Shas and the Army
Asked about the claim that many Shas voters don’t serve in the army, Bibi said, “Party Chairman Eli Yishai was in the army, as were other ministers. I am convinced that in the coming decade, we will see more and more hareidim in the army. The Air Force is already filling up with hareidim, and in general most of those who vote Shas serve in the army.”

Bibi feels that many former NRP voters now support Shas. “Once they closed up the NRP for us [replacing it in late 2008 with the Jewish Home party], this pushed many people to join Shas… I was always loyal to religious-Zionism, but once I saw that many NRP voters were voting for the Likud, I preferred that their votes would go to a religious party…”

Yigal Bibi served in the Knesset from 1988 until 2003, during which time he also served for various terms as Deputy Environment Minister and Deputy Religious Affairs Minister.

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7. Aussie Couple: Green Wedding Gift to the Arava

by Hana Levi Julian

A stand of acacia trees was planted this week along the edges of agricultural fields in the sunny Arava north of Eilat, the Tu B’Shvat gift of an Australian bride who convinced her new banker husband that green is more important than gold.

The planting, one of several that will be taking place in the coming days, was carried out as part of a festive ceremony to celebrate the upcoming Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the “New Year for Trees.”

Sydney newlyweds Zoe and Darren Smorgon, married one year ago, chose to donate their wedding money towards the “Adopt an Acacia” project run by the Keren Kayemet L’Israel/Jewish National Fund in the Arava. In an interview with the Australian Internet magazine J-Wire, Smorgon described his wife, an architect, as “a bit of a greenie, so donating to the JNF seemed an obvious choice.”

Acacia trees (shittim) were also an obvious choice for the JNF, which noted they are “a characteristic feature of the Arava region.” Its wood is very strong, with prickly branches adorned by yellow flowers.

The acacia is mentioned in the Torah, and its wood was used in the construction of the Tabernacle during the Jews’ 40 years of wandering after the Exodus from Egypt. The wood was the material for building the holy altar, the table for the showbreads, and the Ark of the Covenant.

Anatomy of an Acacia Project
The project began a year ago with identifying trees that could reproduce. The organization’s Seed Unit then began to collect, sort and map those seeds that were most suitable from the highest quality trees. Finally, the chosen seeds were transferred to JNF nurseries, where they were carefully germinated and planted.

Meanwhile, staff members were busy teaming up with local farmers to select optimal areas in the Arava where the young trees could flourish once they were placed in the ground. Only open spaces where no future development is planned were eligible for selection, in order to ensure the trees would never be cut down.

Now that the young trees have grown to a sustainable size, they are ready to be planted along the edges of agricultural fields, where the farmers will care for them along with their crops.

The project, which is intended to “form a unique, beautiful savanna desert landscape” is seen by the organization as “the basis for a rich and important ecological system, such as not seen elsewhere in the world." JNF further explained in a statement that “recent decades have witnessed a substantial mortality among the acacia trees accompanied by virtually no natural propagation” – hence, the new project.

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8. Sobibor Prisoner Readies to Testify in Demjanjuk Trial

by Malkah Fleisher

Thomas "Toivi" Blatt, an 82 year-old resident of California, has made the long journey to Munich, where he will testify in the trial of former Nazi SS guard John Demjanjuk. Blatt is one of the last living survivors of Sobibor, a Nazi extermination camp located in Poland. German and Ukrainian SS soldiers were responsible for the murders of over 250,000 European Jews and Soviet Jewish prisoners of war.

Blatt was 15 years old at the time of the famous prisoner-led escape, in which inmates – primarily members of the Red Army – murdered Nazis and staged a daring escape into the surrounding woods. Of the 500 Jews at Sobibor on that fateful October 14, 1943, less than half survived the escape. Many Jews were killed in minefields surrounding the camp, and some were recaptured and slaughtered by the Nazis. Ultimately, only 66 Sobibor Jews survived the war.

In an interview for British newspaper The Independent, Blatt said he has come to testify about his experiences at Sobibor, but does not remember Demjanjuk – the survivor says the nearly 67 years since his getaway have turned even the faces of his parents hazy in his memory. His parents and his 10 year-old brother were murdered at Sobibor.

‘Blood on the boots’
Demjanuk, who was extradited from the United States for trial in Germany is facing 27,500 murder charges for his part as a guard at Sobibor in the spring and summer of 1943. The Jews who were slaughtered during his tenure were primarily Dutch, and were gassed or beaten to death. According to Blatt, Ukrianian guards were a key component of the framework of Sobibor, even more terrifying than their German compatriots.

Sobibor guards shot the old and sick new arrivals at the camp, and drove people into the gas chambers with their bayonets, returning with blood on their boots, according to Blatt.

Blatt survived in the camp by polishing the boots of SS men, sorting clothes, and shaving the hair off female prisoners prior to their mass extermination in gas chambers. He took part in the uprising, helping to kill 12 SS officers by individually tricking them into believing a fine leather coat once belonging to a Jew had been saved for them. Once lured to retrieve it, prisoners with axes and knives killed the soldiers.

Demjanjuk was deported to Israel in 1986, and convicted in Israeli court in 1988 of war crimes after being identified as the cruel Treblinka and Sobibor guard "Ivan the Terrible". He was sentenced to death. However, in 1993, new evidence came to light leading to his exoneration. He subsequently returned to the United States.

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