Shahak Seeks To Defuse

Staff Writer
Former Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai was not “fully aware of the impact” of his Knesset vote last week in favor of a bill designed to keep Reform and Conservative representatives off of Israel’s religious councils, according to his running mate on the new centrist party. “He was not aware,” insisted former Israeli Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak in an interview here with The Jewish Week just hours after he called Mordechai for an explanation.

Shahak Value

Staff Writer
Even before new elections were a certainty this week, Labor Party posters touting their chief, Ehud Barak, began appearing in Israel reading: “One Israel for everyone and not for the extremists.” Barak, a former army chief of staff who once served as foreign minister, has already hired American media gurus, including James Carville, who gained prominence helping Bill Clinton to the White House. It is clear from Labor’s new slogan that it will portray Netanyahu as too closely aligned with right-wing extremists.

New York State Of Mind

Staff Writer
Philadelphia — They were there to celebrate George W. Bush and all things Republican, but the New York delegates at the party’s national convention here seemed to be thinking as much about the state’s U.S. Senate race as the presidential duel. Many in that contingent wore anti-Hillary Clinton buttons. Some appeared even more intent in working to defeat the first lady in her Senate bid than in trying to elect Bush, whom few expect to take New York State in November.

Off And Running

Staff Writer
The second time, it turns out, was the charm for Eliot Spitzer. After finishing last in a four-way primary for attorney general four years ago, the Manhattan millionaire lawyer handily defeated his three opponents in the Democratic primary for the same seat Tuesday and immediately set his sights on unseating incumbent Republican Dennis Vacco.

‘Feeling Of Disgust In The Country’

Staff Writer
The Israeli government shook this week and observers wondered how much longer it could stand. Early Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz abruptly resigned over his handling of last summer’s war with Hezbollah. Just hours earlier, the state’s prosecutor ordered a criminal investigation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into his role in the 2005 privatization of an Israeli bank. The Israeli press reported Monday that a rape indictment against Israeli President Moshe Katsav was imminent.

Paterson Has Forged Deep Jewish Alliances

Staff Writer
David Paterson, who takes over as governor in the wake of Eliot Spitzer’s sex scandal, has worked for years to forge black-Jewish relations and is seen as a legislative bridge-builder, in sharp contrast to his former boss. The Spitzer revelations have thrust the 53-year-old former state senator from Harlem into arguably the toughest gubernatorial job in the country. He becomes the state’s first black governor and the first with a handicap — he is legally blind.

Rice Visit Prompts Israel Policy Shift

Staff Writer
Just days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s scheduled arrival in Israel Saturday night, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced a series of moves to bolster the Palestinian Authority, including the deployment of another 600 Palestinian policemen and approving permits for thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel. The issuance of work permits is a major change in Israeli policy, according to Yitzhak Reiter, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Back Home To A Fight

Staff Writer
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raised expectations with their almost identical pledges for an end to violence, Sharon’s own political fortunes at home were not as bright. He faces a fight with his own foreign minister and other members of his party who are supporting calls for a referendum on the Gaza withdrawal plan. And Sharon does not yet have enough votes in the Knesset to win passage of the 2005 budget. If it does not pass by March 31, his government would collapse and new elections would be held.

Taking It To The Streets

Staff Writer
Jerusalem — Opponents of the Gaza disengagement plan are focusing their efforts now on more street demonstrations to force either a referendum on the issue or the collapse of the Sharon government. But they acknowledge that their chances of success are slim.“I think this [turnout] is very good,” said Mordechai Afargan, 23, a yeshiva student from Ashdod, as he scanned the estimated 150,000 who gathered Sunday night in front of the Knesset. “This is the biggest rally we have had here and they say it is going to be the turning point.”

All Eyes Now On Labor Primary

Israel Correspondents
Tel Aviv — Having survived an early attempt at a putsch within his own party and an immediate outpouring of public protest, Ehud Olmert’s tenure as prime minister now seems to be in the hands of his chief coalition partner, the Labor Party. With the party divided over whether to oust Olmert immediately to satisfy public sentiment or prop up the coalition to avoid early elections likely to crown Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud, all eyes are now fixed on the May 28 Labor leadership primary.
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