October 4, 2007
Briefs: Clinton backs Israel attack on Syria, Abbas to Hamas: Never Again
U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) backed what she said was an Israeli attack on a Syrian nuclear target. "What we think we know is that with North Korean help, financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out," the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination said in a debate Sept. 26. "I strongly support that."
The Bush administration, Israel and Syria have been reticent to discuss the Sept. 6 incident in detail, and Clinton was challenged during the debate over her certainty that Israel was targeting a nuclear program.
Abbas to Hamas: Never Again
Mahmoud Abbas said he would not reunite in a government with Hamas under any circumstances. The terrorist group ousted forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority president from the Gaza Strip in internecine fighting this summer, and Abbas re-established the P.A. government in the West Bank. The fighting ended a tentative national unity government between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah, but also opened up the Palestinian Authority to assistance from Israel and the West, where Hamas is banned because of its terrorism. In an interview published Sunday in The Washington Post and Newsweek, Abbas said he has no plans to govern with Hamas.
Abbas added that he would not work with Hamas "under any circumstances." He also said he backed the U.S.-led isolation of Hamas.
"In the beginning, I believed that they were mistaken, but now we are in the same position," Abbas said. "I am against Hamas."
Abbas said he and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should have worked out the framework of a final-status agreement in time for the Palestinian-Israeli peace meeting to be convened in November under U.S. auspices. Abbas also faulted the 1947 Palestinian leadership for not accepting the U.N. partition plan and launching a war against Israel.
Israel Completes Release of 86 Prisoners
Twenty-nine prisoners, mostly from the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, were bused to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after a 24-hour delay. The holdup, media reports revealed, was due to a short-lived protest by armed forces chief Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who had argued that it was inappropriate to return prisoners to Gaza while Hamas continues to hold hostage and is incommunicado on an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Shalit. On Monday, 56 Palestinian prisoners were returned to their homes in the West Bank. Israel had been scheduled to free 57 inmates from that territory but one was held back amid suspicions that he is aligned with Hamas. Jailed for involvement in terrorist attacks that did not cause serious casualties, the 86 men were freed early by the Olmert government in an effort to shore up Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas.
Court Rejects Corrie Appeal
A court rejected an appeal from the family of a U.S. activist seeking to sue Caterpillar for its alleged role in her death in the Gaza Strip. The family of Rachel Corrie, killed at 23 in 2003 during Israeli army bulldozer actions in the Gaza Strip, wants to sue the industrial vehicle company because it sells its bulldozers to Israel. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower federal court's ruling throwing out the case. The court ruled that because the sales are approved by the U.S. government, any such suit is tantamount to unconstitutional court involvement in foreign policy making. The family was considering an appeal to a broader panel of the 9th circuit or to the Supreme Court, the Forward newspaper reported.
Paul Not Welcome at RJC Event
The Republican Jewish Coalition did not invite presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to its candidates' forum.
Sources close to the RJC leadership cited two reasons for not extending an invitation to Paul for the Oct. 16 forum to take place in Washington: There was time only for leading candidates, and Paul's record of consistently voting against assistance to Israel and his criticisms of the pro-Israel lobby.
Paul's supporters say he is opposed to foreign assistance in principle and note that he also has blasted the Saudi lobby for what he believes is its undue influence.
The RJC also did not invite Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), but only because of their long-shot status.
Candidates attending include former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; Former Tenessee Sen. Fred Thompson; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas.) Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was invited, but was unable to attend because of a scheduling conflict.
The National Jewish Democratic Council hosted the full range of its party's candidates at a spring event, including Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), like Paul, a tough critic of Israel. The NJDC event, however, lasted two days, while the RJC's is a single-day event.
Former Top Officials Have Peace Blueprint
Five former senior U.S. government officials released a blueprint for a successful Mideast peace parley.
The group, with close ties to several recent U.S. administrations, produced a six-page, nine-point plan for the Bush administration's planned Middle East peace conference likely to be held next month in Washington.
The document was drafted by Thomas Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the first President Bush; Samuel Lewis, the U.S. ambassador to Israel under Presidents Carter and Reagan; Edward Walker, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates under President Clinton and in the current administration; Robert Pelletreau, the Clinton-appointed U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain; and Frederic Hof, a director for Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian affairs in the Secretary of Defense's office. Steven Spiegel, a scholar representing the dovish pro-Israel group Israel Policy Forum, also worked with the group, which met in early September.
Among the plan's many recommendations are clear goals for dealing with the role of Hamas in the talks, a plan for future talks, not allowing the meeting's success to be determined by which Arab nations participate and a call for former British Prime Minister and now Quartet envoy Tony Blair to work full-time to draft a Declaration of Principles for the talks, which would be endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.