'Gaza First' Plan OK'd by P.A.
The Palestinian Cabinet gave preliminary approval Wednesday to an Israeli plan for a troop withdrawal from some areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under the plan, Israeli soldiers would withdraw from parts of Gaza and the West Bank city of Bethlehem in exchange for Palestinian guarantees that no attacks would be launched from these areas. Further withdrawals would take place if peace holds in these first areas. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer presented the "Gaza First" plan during a meeting with Palestinian officials earlier in the week. The Palestinian Cabinet's approval of the plan was contingent on further Israeli-Palestinian meetings. The development came as a delegation of Palestinian officials left for talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington.
Couple Killed in West Bank Ambush
An Israeli husband and wife were killed and their toddler son wounded in a Palestinian ambush Sunday night. Avi Volanski, 29, and his pregnant wife, Avital, 27, were killed when gunmen opened fire on their car as they were traveling on a West Bank road to their home in the settlement of Eli. The couple's 3-year-old son was moderately wounded. Their 8-month-old son, who was also in the car, was unharmed. Including the Volanskis, 13 people were killed in a series of Palestinian terror attacks Sunday.
U.S. Consulate Cites Security Concerns
The State Department is planning to move part of the U.S. Consulate out of eastern Jerusalem for security reasons. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Tuesday that several offices may move to the western part of the city. The consul general's office, however, is expected to remain there. The consulate primarily deals with relations with the Palestinian Authority.
Democrats Seeking Israel Aid
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) is urging President Bush to sign a bill that would give Israel $200 million in aid. Last week, both houses of Congress authorized the bill, which also calls for an additional $50 million in aid for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "President Bush should sign this legislation," said Ira Foreman, NJDC's executive director. "If the president fails to back his rhetoric with action, the rest of the world will receive a poor message concerning U.S. support for the State of Israel."
Jews Mixed on Voucher Ruling
Jewish groups gave a mixed reaction to a decision that ruled school vouchers unconstitutional in Florida. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) hailed the ruling, in which a trial court judge ruled Monday that the Florida voucher program violated the state's constitution, which says no state money can be used, even indirectly, to aid sectarian institutions. But the Orthodox Union, which supports vouchers, said the ruling was not unexpected as many states have 'anti-religious'' provisions in their constitutions, and voucher supporters are working to eliminate those amendments. The ADL and the AJC said the ruling shows the limits of a June decision by the Supreme Court, which said vouchers do not violate the separation of church and state under the Constitution. The two groups said state constitutions can be more restrictive of government funding of private and parochial schools.
N.Y. Jewish Cemetery Vandalized
More than 150 tombstones were toppled and several headstones broken at a century-old cemetery on the New York borough of Staten Island. According to the New York Daily News, Staten Island and local Jewish officials expressed outrage at last week's attack, which caused an estimated $20,000 in damage. Officials at the Baron Hirsch Cemetery said the 88-acre burial ground was also vandalized earlier this year, and several hundred gravestones were toppled a few years ago.
Clinton: I'd die for Israel
President Clinton told a fund-raiser for a Jewish charity that if Iraq attacked Israel, he would "fight and die" for the Jewish state. Speaking at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser in Toronto for the Hadassah-Women's International Zionist Organization children's charity, Clinton said he 'would grab a rifle and get in the trench and fight and die" should Iraq mount a land attack on Israel in response to a U.S. attack on Iraq. Clinton added that while he did not think there was a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 'I know there's not a terrorist solution to it" either, the paper reported.
U.S. Cuts Sinai Forces
The Pentagon intends to 'significantly reduce" the number of Americans involved in an international peacekeeping force in the Sinai Desert. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith met last week with Israeli and Egyptian defense officials to discuss plans to cut the 800-member American contingent in the 1,900-strong multinational force -- perhaps to as few as 50, some defense officials said.
Rally for Israel Will Cost
A plan to bring thousands of Americans to an international Aug. 13 rally in Jerusalem to support Israel hit a snag after promised private financial backing failed to materialize, The Jewish Week of New York reported. While the 72-hour solidarity trip is proceeding, organizers have been forced to backtrack on promised subsidies that would have helped hundreds of people participate at a bargain price of $550 per person, nearly half the full cost of $995. As a result, thousands of potential participants have dropped out, said Robert Miller, a spokesman for Rally in Israel, an ad hoc New Jersey-based interdenominational group headed by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Englewood, N.J. The first 140 participants will pay the $550 price, funded through other sources.
All briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.