After more than 17 months of virtually non-stop violence, punctuated this week by the largest Israeli military incursion into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israelis and Palestinians looked hopefully to the arrival of U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni and Vice President Dick Cheney.
“If Zinni does not come with a plan that will put pressure on [Palestinian President Yasir] Arafat, nothing will be accomplished,” said Gerald Steinberg, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.
Even as U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni struggled to piece together a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinian attacks continued and Israeli intelligence reported no let-up in terrorist activity.
Now that survivors and their heirs have begun receiving payments in Holocaust claims from Germany and Switzerland, the next fight appears to be within the Jewish community itself.
The Jewish Agency for Israel has written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asking that he stop the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany from voting April 11 on a new slate of lay leaders. The agency’s treasurer, Chaim Chessler, said in an interview that his organization is upset that there was no Israeli representative on the nominating committee.
As European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana sought further clarification this week of a Saudi statement that promised true Middle East peace, the idea that Israel would no longer be virtually isolated amid hostile Arab neighbors brought a glimmer of hope to Israelis still reeling from a week that left some 70 Israelis and Palestinians dead.
In a week that saw the most violence in Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel’s intensified efforts to destroy the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure was met with a series of devastating suicide bombings and shootings that left more than 30 Israelis dead. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s response was to dig in his heels.
In a historic decision that will likely widen the secular-religious gulf in the Jewish state, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that people converted in Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis must be officially recognized as Jews by the Israeli government.
The court did not address the question of whether Reform or Conservative conversions were valid according to Jewish religious law. In practical terms the ruling leaves the Orthodox rabbinate in charge of lifecycle events such as weddings and funerals.