Israel came out strongly against European calls for preliminary engagement with Hamas. A British parliamentary panel and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi called this week for Western "dialogue" with the terrorist Islamist group, arguing that its continued isolation in Gaza would perpetuate political entropy in the Palestinian Authority. The proposals drew an angry response Tuesday from Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has been at the forefront of efforts to keep Hamas shunned until it abandons its hard-line hostility toward the Jewish state.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization. The requirements of the international community are and were clear," Livni told reporters in Jerusalem.
"I believe that any compromise with terror, any compromise with these extremists, can lead to undermining the new government in the Palestinian Authority," she added, referring to a Western-backed administration formed by Mahmoud Abbas after his Fatah faction broke with Hamas in June.
"I know that it looks tempting, and I know that the international community is eager to see a kind of an understanding between Hamas and Fatah," she said. "This is wrong. This is a mistake -- big mistake, huge."
Man Who Accosted Wiesel Apologizes
Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, was on the witness stand in San Francisco Superior Court recounting what he described as his most harrowing ordeal since World War II when Eric Hunt, who attacked him at a hotel, blurted out, "I'm terribly sorry about what happened."
Wiesel said he wasn't sure the apology by Hunt, 23, of New Jersey, was sincere. "I expected it," Wiesel said. "I'm a novelist. I imagine situations. This is something a character would do. It's clever, very clever."
Hunt admitted to police that he traveled 3,000 miles to California to get Wiesel to admit the Holocaust did not occur. He is charged with six felonies, including attempted kidnapping, battery and stalking, in connection with the Feb. 1 incident at the Argent Hotel, where he approached Wiesel, the author of 40 books, in an elevator at a conference in San Francisco. Hunt was arrested three weeks later after someone identifying himself as Hunt posted an account of the incident on an anti-Semitic Web site.
New Immigration Chief Vows Easier Aliyah
Israel's new immigration minister vowed to make aliyah less onerous. Ya'acov Edri said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post published Tuesday that having prevented planned cuts to his ministry's budget, he intends to implement measures for making immigration easier. For one, new arrivals will be issued Israeli identity cards upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, sparing them the need to line up at Interior Ministry offices later.
Rove: Bush's Jewish 2004 Vote 'Historic'
Karl Rove said President Bush made historic inroads among Jewish voters in 2004, a view at odds with the record. Rove, Bush's top political adviser, announced his resignation Monday, to take effect Aug. 31. In an interview with reporters aboard Air Force One, Rove said Bush's decisive 2004 victory vindicated his presidency, which had been dogged by the Florida recount controversy in 2000 and his loss of the popular vote to Al Gore.
"He got historic numbers among Latinos, Jews, Catholics, women -- erased the gender gap," Rove said of the 2004 election.
According to exit polls, Bush increased his Jewish vote from 19 percent in 2000 to as much as 25 percent in 2004. Jews traditionally have favored Democrats, but Bush's 2004 boost was nowhere near the gains Ronald Reagan, also a Republican, scored among Jews in 1980, earning nearly 40 percent of their vote. Bush's father received more than 30 percent of the Jewish vote in 1988, although that dropped to 11 percent by 1992. Jewish support for Republicans plunged after 2004, and exit polls from the 2006 midterm congressional elections suggested 87 percent Jewish support for Democrats.
Kosher Slaughterhouse Cited for Violations
Agriprocessors, the country's largest kosher slaughterhouse, was slammed in a union's report for committing scores of violations. Among the most serious charges noted in a report by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union released Thursday was that Agriprocessors took inadequate protections against mad cow disease.
Agriprocessors, which makes products for brands including Aaron's Best and Rubashkin's, had been cited by federal investigators in late 2004 of engaging in acts of inhumane slaughter. The union, which represents 250,000 food processing employees and bills itself as "a leading voice on industry issues," obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture records that showed food safety inspectors found 250 instances of noncompliance from Jan. 1, 2006 to Jan. 24, 2007 due to issues such as rodents and fecal contaminations. Inspectors found workers at the Iowa plant did not properly identify and isolate cows found to be over 30 months old, which are much more likely to contain the deadly mad cow disease.
Union spokesman Jim Blau said in a news conference that the union requested USDA documents after some workers complained about certain practices. The workers at the Agriprocessors plant are not unionized.
Each of the claims brought forward by this labor union have been addressed," Sholom Rubashkin, vice president of Agriprocessors, said in a prepared statement.
Government regulators "verified that we are currently in compliance, and there are no current food safety issues associated with any of our products."
AIPAC Executive Director No. 6 on Washington Power List
Howard Kohr, exective director of AIPAC tied with three other lobbyists -- for retired Americans, gun owners and the pharmaceutical industry -- on GQ magazines' list of 50 most powerful people in the Washington. At 51, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's top professional was the youngest person named.
"In 2006, the four interest groups they command spoke for 40 million members and 32 drug companies, racked up $43 million in lobbying expenses, and threw their considerable weight around to keep a slew of unpopular laws on the books and uphold the status quo," the men's magazine said in making its selection, which says it based the list on conversations with "think tankers, congressional aides and political journalists."
Topping the list is Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state.Kohr and the other lobbyists are the first on the list not employed by the government. They are ahead of U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the front-running Democratic presidential candidate, at No. 8 and Tim Russert, who hosts the influential NBC talk show "Meet the Press," at No. 14.
"Thanks to the influence their groups wield that's both detectable (money given to campaigns) and subtle (the personal relationships built with committee members of both parties), don't expect any big changes to our Israel or prescription-drug policies in coming years," GQ wrote.
AIPAC declined comment.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.