by Lawrence Cohler-Esses and Michele Chabin |
Staff Writer and Israel Correspondent
Jerusalem — For more years than he cares to remember, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch and his movement, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, have been pressing Israel’s Interior Ministry to comply with the law.
But that law, which requires the ministry to accept and register as Jews immigrants who have converted to Judaism abroad, repeatedly has faced a harsh political reality:
After two weeks of preliminary talks, Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak was to begin serious negotiations with political parties late this week to form the broad coalition government he promised. But before the talks began, Barak met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed the latest fighting in southern Lebanon.
King Abdullah of Jordan said his recent meeting with Hafez Assad has convinced him that the Syrian president is ready to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
"I believe that President Assad is very keen to move in the right direction and have a peace with Israel," he told The Jewish Week on Monday during the final leg of a 10-day visit to the United States. "I am very optimistic with the statements that are coming out of Damascus."
Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak’s efforts to assemble his “dream team” — a broad-based, unprecedented 96-member coalition government — got off to a rocky start this week when the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party rejected his demand for the resignation of its leader, Aryeh Deri.
“We won’t go crawling to any government,” said outgoing Interior Minister and Shas negotiator Eli Suissa. “Whoever wants us will get us as we are. We won’t be performing any cosmetic surgery in order to get into a coalition.”
James D. Besser |
The Clinton administration got part of what it wanted in Monday’s landslide defeat of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man they regard as most responsible for suffocating Mideast peace talks. But it will be weeks before they know if they got the rest — a quick jump-start to the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a possible resumption of talks with Syria.
The White House and the majority of Jews are certainly optimistic over Ehud Barak’s election. The Washington Post editorial was sure the election produced “from an American vantage point, the right winner.” However, the American vantage point isn’t the only one.
Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator, told ABC’s Nightline: “I don’t think we can have an easy ride with Mr. Barak. ... I think we’re going to face a lot of difficult times.”