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US to Give PA $300 Million


The American government is handing over $300 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian Authority; a "western diplomatic source" was quoted as saying by Ynet. US officials explain funds will be given to the United Nations, earmarked for humanitarian projects in the PA in order to bypass the Hamas-led government.

Peres Meets With Pope in Vatican

By & VOA News

Israel's indefatigable Shimon Peres met with Pope Benedict XVI Thursday, and submitted an invitation to visit Israel from Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"I told him that he will be welcomed, I am sure, by all communities in Israel, clearly by the government of Israel, the people of Israel," Peres said. "And they all said it, that the visit of the late Pope John Paul II was very successful, and very meaningful, and I do believe that his [Benedict's] visit can have an impact upon the peace process, as well."

The two met for 40 minutes in the Vatican, and the pope said he hoped to visit Israel sometime in the first half of next year. They said afterwards that they had discussed Middle East matters.

Peres said he found Pope Benedict extremely well informed about the situation in the Middle East, and also concerned about the spread of terrorism. He dismissed, however, concern that a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories would prevent the pope from visiting the region.

During the meeting, Peres said he also discussed with the pope how to improve relations between the Vatican and Israel, and access to holy sites in Israel. Peres said a dual dialogue, both political and financial, must be renewed to identify the right solution.

In February 2000, the Vatican and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement calling for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem. The agreement stated that a special statute would protect "equality before the law of the three monotheistic religions [in Jerusalem], the proper identity and sacred character of the city, [and] freedom of access" to the city's holy sites.

Israel objected, saying that freedom of religion is already protected throughout the country. It also opposed the Vatican's treatment of the PA as an independent country.

Shortly afterwards, Pope John Paul II visited Israel, and - unlike one of his predecessors, Pope Paul VI, who visited in 1964 - agreed to come to Jerusalem. Pope John Paul met with the Chief Rabbis in their Jerusalem offices, and visited Yad Vashem as well. Pope Paul, on the other hand, refused to visit Jerusalem, leading then-Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim to boycott his visit altogether.

During his visit in 2000, Pope John Paul II conducted a prayer service in Bethlehem, and announced that the Vatican had always recognized the Palestinians' national rights to a homeland. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Dean of Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, said in response that the pope's goal was simply to obtain a foothold in Jerusalem for the church, and that his visit was one way the pope hoped to reach this goal.

"If the Catholics would at least stop supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state in our land, and stop supporting the other Arab nations around us - then this could be considered a significant step," Aviner said.

Pope John Paul II did not expressly apologize for the role played by the church, and its silence, during the Holocaust. He said instead that the church is "deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place... I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the 20th century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews."

Former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau has said that an earlier pope, Pope Pius XII, refused several requests by Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog to meet with him before and during the Holocaust to discuss how the church could help save Jewish lives. After the war, too, Herzog asked for the pope's assistance in locating Jewish orphans who were cared for by Catholic families, and again, the pope refused.

The current pope has been following in the footsteps of his predecessor John Paul in trying to improve Jewish-Catholic relations.

Klan Leader Praises Harvard Professors' Essay on Israel Lobby

By the Chicago Tribune & the Financial Times

The Associated Press reported Thursday that KKK leader and former U.S. Congressman David Duke's praise that an essay by two Harvard and University of Chicago professors 'validates' the position that Israel lobbies help control media and the American government.

Writing in the London Review of Books, John Mearsheimer, a University of Chicago political scientist, and his academic partner, Harvard University Prof. Stephen Walt, offered a simple diagnosis for what ails U.S. foreign policy.

How did we get involved in a seemingly endless Iraq war? Why are we reviled in Muslim countries and targeted by terrorists? "Why," they asked, "has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?"

Mearsheimer and Walt say a vocal and well-financed lobby--made up of Jewish organizations and Christian fundamentalists, political fundraisers, media outlets and neo-conservatives--gets Washington to slavishly do Israel's bidding.

Mearsheimer and Walt's thesis, published late last month, has provoked both applause and a torrent of criticism. It also has inspired several spinoff counter-conspiracy theories.

When Walt recently stepped down as dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, some speculated he was forced out because the university was taking heat for their essay, "The Israel Lobby." Harvard published a news release saying the change long had been in the works. Both Harvard and the U. of C. have argued universities must be a forum for controversial ideas like those discussed in the essay. "We wanted to stimulate a serious debate," said Mearsheimer, "not a food fight."

Some observers suggest that Mearsheimer and Walt have done just the opposite, potentially scaring people away from the debate by putting the issue in polarizing terms.

But Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, told a leading Israeli newspaper: "It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported" to the U.S.

The Christian Science Monitor favorably cited Mearsheimer and Walt's theory in an editorial on the Middle East. Some Israeli commentators have given it cautious praise as a warning that American support for Israel can't be taken for granted.

But to Jewish-American groups, "The Israel Lobby" smacks of the age-old accusation that a secret cabal of Jews aims at world dominance.

The Anti-Defamation League pronounced Mearsheimer and Walt's essay "a classic conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis invoking the canards of Jewish power and Jewish control." Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told a reporter for the university's student newspaper that "The Israel Lobby" repeats material posted on neo-Nazi Web sites.

In a 15,000-word response paper, published on Wednesday afternoon on the website of the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard, Dershowitz condemned the paper by Walt and Mearsheimer as "little more than a compilation of old, false and authoritatively discredited charges dressed up in academic garb. The real trouble with the paper is that it presents a conspiratorial view of history," he wrote.

Jewish ears are particularly sensitive to blame-the-Jews theories, noted Richard Hirschhaut, director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Recently, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan attacked the Jews of Hollywood for undermining America's morals with movies promoting homosexuality.

Critics of the Israel lobby thesis, though, aren't limited to Jewish communal leaders and Israel's defenders. Mearsheimer and Walt name Dershowitz, O.J. Simpson's lawyer, as a lobby member. On the far right, David Duke, the white supremacist, charges the professors with being Johnny-come-latelies to an argument he has long made. At the other end of the political spectrum is Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics, a notable professorial dissenter and vocal critic of Israel.

Writing for the Znet Web site, Chomsky applauded Mearsheimer and Walt for their courage in writing "The Israel Lobby," but he added: "We still have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion."

A piece on Israel and the U.S. national interest originally was commissioned by The Atlantic Monthly, but when editors saw it, they declined to run it. Some of Mearsheimer and Walt's supporters take that as further proof of the Israel lobby thesis, saying such is the power of the Jewish state's supporters that dissenting views can't get published in the U.S.

Mearsheimer, a former West Point cadet, said international relations should be based on cold, clear calculation of a nation's best interests. Emotional or moral considerations are irrelevant, according to this viewpoint.

Despite his soft-spoken manner, Mearsheimer is hardly a stranger to controversy. In 1990, he wrote an essay proposing that Germany be encouraged to develop atomic weapons. He was an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, fearing it would give the Israelis an opportunity for an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.

He told a reporter for the Maroon, the University of Chicago's student newspaper: "The precedent is there [to forcibly expel Palestinians], and it behooves us to make sure it does not happen again."

The reference was to Palestinian refugees uprooted by Israel's 1948 War of Independence. In the lobby essay, Mearsheimer and Walt charged that "the creation of Israel entailed a moral crime against the Palestinian people."

Of America's pro-Israel tilt, the professors wrote: "This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral cause for sustained U.S. backing."

They argued that Israel is neither morally in the right nor militarily endangered; therefore, the cause of U.S. foreign policy must be the alternative: the power of the Israel lobby.

Critics noted that Mearsheimer and Walt's logic--that either one or the other must be true--leads to some highly controversial conclusions. The two argue that Israel has always been the Goliath, not the David, of the Middle East. "The Zionists had larger, better equipped and better led forces during the [War of Independence]," the two professors wrote.

Military historians, though, note that the newly-born Israel had only a militia when it was attacked by professional armies from Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, backed by air power and heavy weapons. The Israelis had two artillery pieces; their opponents had several hundred.

Chomsky notes that, militarily, the lobby theory gets things backward. Instead of reducing the U.S. to its pawn, Israel has been several times reined in by Washington.

"In several of the Arab-Israeli wars, the U.S. forced the Israeli army to stop when it was on the verge of annihilating the Arab forces," he said in an interview.

The influence of Israel on American foreign policy, Chomsky said, is dwarfed by that of the energy companies.

"I wish the lobby theory was true," he said. "But does anybody doubt that American oil interests are what are at stake in the Middle East?"

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