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Are US-Israel Relations Heading for a Change?


While most voters in America vote with their pockets – the main issues are economic- for some, policy towards Israel is important. What can be expected from each candidate in the foreign policy arena and specifically with regard to Israel?

"Conventional wisdom has it that a second term President is much stronger than a first term President, yet this isn't true", said Yoram Ettinger former liaison to Congress and expert on US-Israel relations. "Most Presidents have been weaker in their second term, except for James Monroe, and are not necessarily successful in passing the legislation they want, especially if Congress is against it. After the elections, the President becomes less powerful and less relevant for Congress due to his political life expectancy. Obama's capability of implementing his policies will be less than in his first term."

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney differ on the role of the US in world politics which ultimately affects policy on Israel. Ettinger remarked that Obama's world outlook sees the UN as the spearhead of international relations and this is certainly not the home court of the US. He doesn't believe in global terrorism and views Islamic terrorism with moral ambiguity which has ultimately led to operational ambiguity.

Obama, he says, believes in moral equivalence between the Arabs and Israel and sees the Palestinian issue as the crown jewel of the Middle East's problems. According to Zalman Shoval, former Israeli ambassador to the US, little by little the American public is beginning to understand that the Palestinian issue is not the major problem of the Middle East.

Shoval said that it is difficult to determine if Obama's policies toward Israel have changed. He began his presidency by disagreeing heads-on with his advisors who told him that the Israel will only make concessions when it feels that it has US support. Obama stated that he believes the opposite is true. In the last year he has toned down his criticism of Israel, but it unclear whether that is due to a change in opinion or because it is unpopular to criticize Israel in campaign season

While Obama's outlook, delineated in his Cairo address, by now is well known, Romney's foreign policy outlook is relatively unknown. In recent years he has criticized Obama for "throwing Israel under the bus", but with little information and record on foreign policy, forecasting his policies will be difficult. However, there is the well known proverb "tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are."

"Romney's inexperience in foreign policy and statements made on these issues suggest that he will rely on the US foreign policy establishment and foreign policy elites, like Jim Baker, who have never been favorable towards Israel," commented Ettinger.

"It would not be surprising at all if that's where his foreign policy advisors come from. It will be important to see who he might choose as his advisors to receive an indication as to the direction of his policies. Condoleezza Rice has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the vice presidency. This is a perfect example of someone who represents the detachment of the foreign policy establishment from reality.

"Moreover, Rice is responsible for the rise of Hamas and sees Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor for George H.W. Bush and viciously against Israel, as a teacher. Though, it is important to note that Romney has a connection to Judaeo-Christian values, something for which Obama holds no affinity. "

Zalman Shoval mentioned that "it is important to note that the Republican Party is composed of elements like the Tea Party who are favorable to Israel, but also might be influenced by the isolationists who are against foreign aid and against American involvement overseas. Thus, much is dependent on which branch has more influence"

According to Shoval, a new US president never brings an extreme change in foreign policy. Since 1967 US presidents have consistently opposed the unification of Jerusalem and building beyond the Green Line. The difference between administrations is the importance that they attribute to the issue.

"The bottom line is that Israel will have a challenge from the upcoming President, no matter who is elected, which is consistent with most presidents except for George W. Bush," summarized Ettinger.

An Inside Look in Eastern Jerusalem: Daily Arab Attacks on Jews


Jews in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of Jerusalem, a hotbed of angry Arabs in one of the areas claimed by the Palestinian Authority, are attacked almost daily by stones and firebombs. Police are passive, according to Jewish residents.

Hezi Hovav told Arutz Sheva there have been dozens of Arab attacks, and he has filed complaints without any results. In one recent attack, a firebomb (Molotov cocktail) burned one room of a house. Another firebomb was hurled last Thursday at a car.

Hovav also reported that an Arabs used tear gas on a young Jewish man. He said that the identities of several of the attackers are known, but the police have not taken any action. "Rocks were thrown three weeks ago, and I gave the police an exact description" of the attackers, he said. The police arrested six suspects but then released all of them after a short while.

Citing police passivity when Jews file complaints, Hovav noted that security cameras in a building owned by Arabs recorded an attack but that police did not want to ask the Arab for the film. On the other hand, when a firebomb was thrown at a house where an illegal infiltrator into the country was living, Hovav said the police were on top of the attack right away with a large force.

In response to Hovav's report, police stated that they are making an effort to find and arrest suspected attackers.

Adelsons Infuse Cash into Birthright Program


The Birthright-Taglit program is to receive a much-needed infusion of cash from top philanthropists Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson. The Jewish-American couple has donated $13 million to the program's coffers, it was announced, adding to the $20 million they gave earlier this year. As a result, an additional 5,000 young Jewish adults will be able to visit Israel expense free, and become acquainted with their heritage.

The program, founded in 2000, has brought more than 300,000 young adults to Israel, from 59 different countries.

The Adelsons are known for their generosity to Jewish causes, particularly in Israel. The couple gifted some $25 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum Center last year.

Sheldon Adelson's assets were estimated in 2012 by Forbes Magazine at $24.9 billion. In a news release issued Tuesday, the 78-year-old hotel and casino owner called the program "the best vehicle to strengthen the Jewish community and our People's connection with the State of Israel."

Miriam Adelson said in the release that she and her husband felt "blessed that we have been able to contribute to the growth of this remarkable program," and called on others – including the Jewish Federation – to increase their own support.

Gaza Church Claims Christians Kidnapped, Forced to Convert


A religious war, Gaza-style: The Orthodox Christian Church in the Gaza Strip is claiming that a group of armed Islamists kidnapped five Christian Palestinians, a young man and a mother and her three daughters, to force them to convert to Islam.

In a statement, the church said that "the dangerous Islamist movement is trying to convince Christian men and women to convert to Islam, destroying Christian families and the Christian presence in the Gaza Strip." The church refused to divulge the name of the Islamist group it accused of these attempts.

The head of the Gaza church claimed that one of the Christians was abducted on Saturday after he had been heavily pressured to convert to Islam and had been prevented from seeing his family. According to the leader, the young man's parents filed a police complaint, but the police did nothing after learning that the person behind the alleged kidnappers was a senior cleric identified with Hamas.

The priest called on all official bodies in Gaza to intervene in the matter and stop abductions of Christians and attempts to force them to convert. He noted that the church was in contact with the Red Cross and with human rights groups in the Strip to arrange protection for local Christians.

On Monday, members of the Christian community held a rare demonstration in protest of the reported kidnappings. Participants rang church bells and called out "In spirit and blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Jesus!" A solidarity protest was held at the same time in Bethlehem on the plaza of the Church of the Nativity.

A spokesman for the Hamas Police in Gaza, Ayman Batniji, flatly denied the church's allegations and said that one of the young men in question had already converted to Islam, and when he arrived to visit his family a fight broke out, causing the police to be summoned. Batniji stressed that the youth had not been abducted and that he was being guarded by the aforementioned cleric out of concern that his family might try to harm him.

Iyad al-Alami, one of the directors of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights who intervened in an attempt to solve the matter, said that his people had held separate meetings with the young man and the mother. He said that during the meetings, it became clear that they had both converted willingly and that there was no indication that they had been kidnapped or forced to do anything against their will.

The Christian community in Gaza has been shrinking. A few years ago, the Strip was home to 3,500 Christians, whereas today Christians number only 1,500. Some are concerned that the rapid and significant decline could eventually cause the community to disappear, either due to emigration or the decision of some Christians to convert to Islam. "If things go on this way, there won't be any Christians left in the Gaza Strip," the mother of the youth who converted said. "Today, it's him. Who will be next?"

German Guide: How to Identify Neo-Nazis


How does the hospitality industry in East Germany deal with the growing problem of Neo-Nazi guests? One region has found an original method: A brochure on how to identify Neo-Nazis. The brochure, intended for hotel, restaurant and pub owners contains guidelines on how to spot unwelcome far-right guests and keep them off the premises.

Britain's Independent newspaper reported that the initiative was launched by the state of Brandenburg, which, has been dogged by the emergence of far-right political parties and widespread anti-immigrant violence since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Martina Münch, the Brandenburg's education minister told Germany's Der Spiegel: "One doesn't have to cater to right-wing extremists; you have to take a stand." She is one of the people behind the guide: 'How not to be fooled by right-wing extremists.' According to The Independent, it is not surprising that Brandenburg is the German state that decided to take action. One unwitting owner of an establishment outside Berlin was duped into allowing his premises to be used for a party attended by more than 100 neo-Nazis earlier this year.

Olaf Lücke, the head of Brandenburg's Hotel and Restaurant Association, which helped produce the guidelines, said far-right groups often used bogus titles such as "The Society for History and Culture" to make bookings. In one such incident, members of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) claimed to be representing a "wine agency" when they booked the hotel for a "conference" in January. The event turned out to be the NPD's New Year's party and the hotel was surrounded by police.

The new guide contains a list of far-right symbols intended to help unwary hoteliers spot a neo-Nazi. These include the "black sun" image, the "inverted swastika" and significant dates in the Nazi calendar often used for far-right bookings. Tourists planning to reserve a hotel room in Brandenburg on 20 April should not be surprised if they are turned down – the date is Hitler's birthday. The far right regularly makes use of a clause in German law which obliges hoteliers to honor bookings once they have confirmed them.

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