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Bush, Kerry Voice Opinions on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Brent Hurd (VOA-Washington)

There has been a dramatic increase of Arab animosity toward U.S. policies in the Middle East, according to the latest opinion polls.

According to Zogby International, a well known American polling firm, most of those surveyed in Arab countries said their first thought when asked about America is 'unfair policy.' A majority said the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a key aspect of that perception.

U.S. presidents and serious presidential contenders have always been supportive of Israel. Lately the debate has focused on how to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, to their mutual benefit. In a recent meeting with the Malaysian prime minister, President Bush spoke about an eventual Palestinian state.

"We talked about the Israeli-Palestinian issue and I told him that I am fully committed to the development of a Palestinian state that can live side by side with Israel in peace," Bush said. To the president, the key is a Palestinian leader that Israel can trust and work with - meaning one without Yasir Arafat.

When John Kerry spoke about the region in May, he did not dispute the premise - only the way the Bush administration is executing it. "We will never expect Israel to negotiate peace without a credible partner. And it is up to the United States in my judgment to do a better job of helping the Arab world to help that partner to evolve and to develop that effort."

Many analysts said there's little difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue. Philip Wilcox, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said there's little substance either. "The phrase Palestinian state is meaningless unless it is defined. The devil is in the details and president Bush has said nothing about the borders of the Palestinian state, the fate of Israeli settlements or a solution to the problem of Jerusalem. At one time it appeared the candidates differed over the controversial security barrier that Israel is building, some of it in the West Bank.

"Kerry said at one stage that he opposed the wall, that it was an obstacle to peace," Wilcox said. "But since then Kerry has pulled back and his policies, his statements about the disengagement plan, the wall, are very similar to those of President Bush. Wilcox said Kerry's change in rhetoric is a cautious move. He says neither candidate wants to take a critical position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for fear of losing votes from U.S. supporters of Israel.

Those supporters include some fundamentalist Christians who want to see Israel include territory the Palestinians say is theirs. "There is a large and well-organized element in the American conservative Christian community that fervently supports the concept of greater Israel," Wilcox said. "They interpret the Bible to say that if the Jews recover all the ancient homelands, than that will bring the second coming of the Christian messiah.

Wilcox said whichever candidate wins the election will be tasked with taking a fresh look at the conflict for the sake of U.S. national security. That argument is based on the idea that support for terrorism in the Middle East can never be eradicated until the Israeli-Palestinian issue is settled. Others suggest that U.S. support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East will also have to change. One thing won't change: whoever wins the election will consider Israel America's closest ally in the Middle East.

Officials May Take Action Against Rabbi Who Threatened Sharon

By Ha'aretz

Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi on Wednesday said police officials were meeting with the State Prosecution to discuss the possibility of initiating criminal proceedings against a rabbi who said he would be willing to hold a ritual calling for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's death.

On Tuesday night Rabbi Yossi Dayan, a former member of the outlawed Kach party, declared on Channel 2 that he would be prepared to carry out a ceremony putting a curse on Sharon if the Gaza disengagement plan is not called off. The ceremony, called Pulsa Denura, was carried out before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995.

Dayan said that he would be willing to conduct the ceremony if other rabbis instructed him to do so, and added that when he was asked to perform the ceremony against Rabin, he did so. The rabbi said that the security services and the police had questioned him about this. "We are forbidden from talking now. We cannot pray. We cannot think. We cannot feel," Dayan said. "The head of the Security Service, [Avi] Dichter said that there are people wishing that Sharon would die. I am among them. 'Can't I wish?'" he said.

Senior officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday said that preemptive arrests might be necessary in view of threats against Sharon and other top officials, Israel Radio reported. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said that the types of people who made those kinds of threats were not the main danger, since they usually do not take action. Nevertheless, he confirmed that preemptive arrests would be made should the need arise.

Israelis Arrested on 9/11 Sue U.S.

By Ha'aretz

Four Israelis arrested in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, a short while after the attacks on the World Trade Center, have filed a multi-million-dollar suit in the U.S. against the Department of Justice.

The four, Paul and Sylvian Kurcheil, Omer Marmari and Vyron Shmuel, claim that their arrests were illegal, and that they were held for months while they were interrogated and tortured. In their suit, filed in U.S. District Court through their attorneys, Nitzana Dershen-Leitner and Robert Tulchin, they claim that "law officials, policemen and jailers arrested the four illegally, for a long and protracted period, and violated their human rights while they were detained at a holding center in 2001."

The four were employed by a New Jersey moving firm and the truck they were riding in was stopped near the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York when the Twin Towers were attacked.

The police officers arrested the four after they saw that they held foreign (Israeli) driving licenses. They were arrested as suspects in the terrorist attack and were transferred to the FBI for interrogation. The four, who are now in Israel, claim that they were held in complete isolation, without being allowed to meet with their attorneys or their families, and were exposed to harsh interrogation methods, physical abuse, sleep deprivation and racist insults

Website Directory for High Holiday Services


"If you happen to find yourself in Anchorage, Alaska or Windhoek, Namibia, over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year," theorizes correspondent Michael Freund, "and you need a place to pray, a new website may just be able to provide the answer."

Freund was referring to The Global High Holiday Events Search Engine, a project of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, which contains dozens of listings around the world for High Holiday services that are free and open to the public.

The site is sponsored by New York investor and philanthropist George Rohr, who said, "We want to make sure that as many Jews as possible have access to High Holiday services, no matter where they are, no matter their financial means and no matter their background."

Is Israel 'Swing State' That Could Tip U.S. Election?

By Matt Spetalnick (Commentary via Reuters)

DEIR DIBWAN, West Bank--In this hillside village known as the "little America" of the West Bank, businessman Abu Mohammed voted for George W. Bush in the last U.S. election but vows not to make the same mistake twice. On the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, Jerusalem marketing manager Stuart Schnee, a lifelong Jewish Democrat who has never crossed party lines, plans to cast his ballot in November to keep Bush in the White House.

With little in common but their U.S. passports, Israeli-Americans and Palestinian-Americans living overseas could help tip the balance if the 2004 presidential election comes down to the wire as it did four years ago. Bush's victory over Democrat Al Gore in Florida's decisive recount was by a margin of 537 votes, only after thousands of absentee ballots were tallied from Floridians abroad.

This time, American expatriates -- estimated to number between five million and 10 million -- are being courted like never before by Democrats and Republicans.

Israel, sometimes referred to as the "51st state" for its embrace of all things American, has become a key battleground. It is home to an estimated 250,000 U.S. citizens, America's fifth-largest community abroad, many hailing from swing states such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. "The lesson of the last election is you can't take a single absentee ballot for granted," said Kory Bardash, head of Republicans Abroad in Israel.

Neither party is taking any chances. The Republicans sent California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to woo Americans in the Jewish state. Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry also sent an emissary -- his brother Cameron, a convert to Judaism.

The Republicans have signed up dozens of campaign volunteers and are preparing a pro-Bush advertising blitz in Israel's English-language newspapers, but they face steep odds. Israeli-Americans, like their Jewish brethren back home, have a long tradition of voting heavily Democratic. Polls show 75 percent of Jews in the United States back Kerry.

But Republicans in Israel hope to win crossover votes by arguing that a Kerry victory could lead to a shift away from the Middle East policies of the Bush presidency, seen as more staunchly pro-Israel than any other White House in decades. It is a message that resonates among growing numbers of Israeli-Americans after four years of bloody conflict marked by Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military offensives. Many say their choice will be guided more by whether they think Bush or Kerry will best serve Israel's interests than by the candidates' stand on taxes and other domestic issues.

Schnee was born in New Jersey with what he calls a "genetic predisposition" to vote Democratic, as his family has for generations. But after a decade living in Israel, he now plans to vote Republican for the first time. "I disagree with Bush on many things ... but he is the best man to lead the war on terror and safeguard Israel's security," Schnee, 40, said on the way to report for army reserve duty.

The Republican campaign is also targeting Israel's fast-growing ultra-Orthodox population, seen as a natural constituency for Bush's conservative views. Many will vote for the first time after leading rabbis told their U.S.-born followers it was their religious duty. American-born Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, are also expected to stick with Bush.

Though they were astonished at Bush's endorsement of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to uproot Gaza settlements, they fear a Democratic administration will press Israel to give up even more of the land they see as theirs by biblical birthright.

Anti-Bush sentiment has taken root in Deir Dibwan, where half of the village's 10,000 inhabitants hold U.S. passports and local restaurants cater to a taste for hamburgers and pizza. Palestinians from Deir Dibwan have a long tradition of immigrating to the United States, where some have earned their fortunes before returning to build luxury villas atop the rocky hills. Many are now moving back to America, embittered by what they see as Bush administration complicity in an Israeli military crackdown that has crippled the Palestinian economy.

Palestinian-Americans are also furious at Bush for agreeing Israel should be allowed to retain large swathes of the West Bank and bar the return of refugees under any future peace deal. While harboring few illusions that a Democratic White House would significantly alter Middle East policy, some are holding out hope that Kerry would take a more even-handed approach. "I voted for Bush and he betrayed us," said Mohammed, 30, a California-registered voter. "This time I'm going for Kerry. If that doesn't bring us justice, it'll be Ralph Nader in 2008."

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