James Besser

Mitchell As Envoy Could Split Center

 Former Sen. George Mitchell is reportedly being tapped as Mideast envoy

01/21/2009
Washington Correspondent

The expected appointment of a special envoy to breathe new life into Israeli-Palestinian negotiations could split the pro-Israel center while pleasing the Jewish left and outraging the right. The schism could be particularly deep if, as was widely reported this week, President Barack Obama appoints former Sen. George Mitchell to the job.

Settlements And Other ‘100 Days’ Bellwethers

“Illegal” settlements on the West Bank face a challenge by the Obama administration, as is tries to increase its influence in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

01/28/2009
Washington Correspondent

As newly minted U.S. Mideast Envoy George Mitchell begins his first swing through a seething region, pro-Israel forces are waiting for early signals about how the Obama administration will deal with Jewish settlements and settlement outposts on the West Bank.

And while the new administration is likely to put off any sweeping new peace initiatives, it may have little choice but to address the perennially explosive issue quickly and decisively as part of President Barack Obama’s goal of restoring U.S. credibility in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Kosher Chicken Circuit Awaits Gillibrand

Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand: Senatorial-designate has little background in Jewish issues.

01/28/2009
Washington Correspondent

Politicos are still puzzling over last week’s appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to Hillary Clinton’s seat in the U.S. Senate and Gov. David Paterson’s missteps in announcing his choice — a “mishandled circus,” according to CUNY political scientist Douglas Muzzio.

But one thing you can take to the bank: Gillibrand, who will face voters statewide in 2010, is going to be eating a lot of kosher chicken in the months ahead.

Recession Forcing Groups Off D.C. Sidelines

Sensing a growing economic crisis, Jewish groups are getting behind President Obama’s stimulus package.

02/04/2009
Washington Correspondent

A spiraling economic emergency has upset the traditional political calculations of Jewish groups and prompted several to become active in the national effort to avert an even deeper calamity.

This week the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and the United Jewish Communities (UJC) were lobbying for versions of the massive economic stimulus bill now moving through Congress, a dramatic and revealing shift for organizations that have traditionally steered clear of positions on core economic issues like taxes and spending.

A Third Way On Faith-Based Conflict?

Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism was named to President Obama’s faith-based advisory board.

02/11/2009
Washington Correspondent

President Barack Obama may be seeking an elusive middle ground on major “culture wars” issues in the early days of his presidency. And according to some analysts that could cause headaches for Jewish church-state groups that were hoping for a sharp reversal of former President George W. Bush’s ambitious faith-based initiative.

Last week’s administration decision revamping the Bush-era faith-based office raised more questions than answers about contentious issues like job discrimination and proselytizing.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Rise Could Strain Relations With U.S.

02/11/2009
Washington Correspondent

With Avigdor Lieberman poised to play the role of coalition kingmaker after Tuesday’s Israeli electoral tangle, some Jewish groups here are readying a hasbara campaign aimed at convincing Americans that the Yisrael Beiteinu leader is not the racist and political extremist portrayed in the Israeli and international media.

Jewish Settlements, Durban II Could Stoke U.S.-Israel Tensions

02/18/2009
Washington Correspondent

For a new U.S. administration that wants to avoid clashes with the Israeli government and pro-Israel groups, this week presented two challenges that could dash those hopes.

Delegitiizing J Street: The Plot Thickens

Want one more example of how ferocious the fight to delegitimize J Street has become?

Michael Goldfarb, the Weekly Standard blogger who has been one of the most vocal J Street opponents, gloated yesterday that JTA Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas “has become the latest name to disappear from the J Street program in advance of next week’s conference. Kampeas was to moderate a panel on  ‘What does it mean to be pro-Israel?’”

Hard Times Meet JCPA: Jewish Group Braces for Deeper Recession

02/25/2009
Washington Correspondent

Reports from the field will be grim when delegates to this year’s Jewish Council for Public Affairs plenum gather in Washington on Sunday — the first major Jewish meeting since the economic furies hit full force and the first since the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

In Detroit, soaring unemployment, home foreclosures and bankruptcies are battering a proud, prosperous Jewish community, and local agencies — already facing budget cuts — are scrambling to keep up.

Darfur’s Back In Focus

03/04/2009
Washington Correspondent

Remember Darfur? The region of western Sudan where an ongoing genocide has generated plenty of hand wringing and periodic protests but not much serious action by the world?

A couple of years ago it was a top issue for several Jewish organizations and it still is — but it’s hard to tell, what with overwhelming concerns about an imploding economy and an ever more dangerous Mid- East.
Well, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) may draw some attention back to the issue.

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