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Pollard, Pardons and the Isaac Toussie Controversy

Friday, December 26th, 2008 James Besser in Washington This week’s bizarre presidential pardon story probably didn’t do Jonathan Pollard any good – although there weren’t any hints that President Bush was ever seriously considering commuting the sentence of the Israeli spy, now in his 23rd year in federal prison.

Obama Transition Team Meets the Jews

Friday, December 19th, 2008 James Besser in Washington After his November 4 election, there was widespread speculation about which Jewish and pro-Israel groups would have access to Barack Obama’s White House – and which would be frozen out.

Madoff with the Monday: Impact of Financial Scandal Could Run Deep

Sunday, December 14th, 2008 James Besser in Washington It’s the weekend, so official reaction from Jewish groups has been limited, but communal boardrooms will be buzzing on Monday as the devastation apparently wreaked by Bernard Madoff,  the onetime hedge fund mastermind, sinks in. Madoff was arrested on Friday after admitting to colleagues that his hedge fund was a $50 billion sham – the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Concerns among Jewish leaders center on three issues.

What’s Keeping Obama Up At Night

Friday, December 12th, 2008 James Besser in Washington Speaking during a recent JCPA conference call about the new administration’s foreign policy team, I was struck by this gap between perception and reality: while so many Israel-focused Jews seem to believe a major element of Barack Obama’s transition is figuring out how to change U.S. policy on Israel and the Palestinians, the reality is that the issue is probably far down on the team’s long list of immediate priorities

The Pros And Cons Of Our Internet Addiction

Friday, December 12th, 2008

The other day, on a lark, I created a Facebook group called “I Refuse To Join Pointless Facebook Groups,” and invited several hundred of my online friends to join. As of this writing, about three dozen have joined this pointless group, some perhaps aware of the irony, some not.

 

Jerusalem Embassy Act Waived (Yawn) Again

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 James Besser in Washington Here’s the non-surprise of the year: President George W. Bush has once again waived provisions of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act mandating that the U.S. embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Back in 2000  Bush, running for the presidency,  promised to begin the move “as soon as I take office,” but then changed his mind, repeatedly invoking the law’s “national security” waiver position.

Pardons and Commutations, but None for Pollard

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 James Besser in Washington President George W. Bush, who must be busy packing cartons at the White House and selecting a mover, also found time this week to issue a few presidential pardons and commutations.  But those hoping convicted spy Jonathan Pollard would be among them were quickly disappointed. The list of recipients includes a cocaine distributor, a bank embezzler and someone convicted of improperly using food stamps, but no spies.

The Jewish Right and the Obama Administration

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 James Besser in Washington In the current issue, the Jewish Week examined the reaction of a worried Jewish left (read the story here) to a Barack Obama administration that some fear may be shaping up as too centrist for their taste.  But what about the Jewish right?

Groups Try to Galvanize Jewish Antiwar Activism

Friday, November 21st, 2008 James Besser in Washington It’s been an anomaly of Jewish life since 2003: Jews have been more opposed to the Iraq war than almost any other group, and yet Jewish organizations have been mostly silent on the subject. Among major Jewish groups, only the Reform movement has called for an end to the conflict, and they have done so with exquisite caution.

Emanuel Appointment and Obama Administration Mideast Policy

Monday, November 10th, 2008 So what, exactly, does it mean that Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the son of an Israeli who served in the Irgun, has been named White House chief of staff under President-elect Barack Obama? It means a lot, in terms of White House management and policy; the hard-charging, experienced, hyper-aggressive Emanuel will undoubtedly  keep the incoming administration organized, deal effectively with Congress and serve as an effective gatekeeper to a new president who will be besieged by those seeking influence and jobs.
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