Condoleezza Rice told thousands of Jewish communal activists that the president of the Palestinian Authority is a true partner for peace. The U.S. secretary of state, addressing delegates in Nashville at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, also said progress toward a Palestinian state was vital to beating back an Iranian-led surge in extremism.
"What is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East," Rice said Tuesday.
"Violent extremists, with the government of Iran increasingly in the lead, are doing everything in their power to impose their fear, their resentments and their hate-filled ideologies on the people of the Middle East," she said, adding that "this makes the two-state solution even more urgent than ever."
Rice said she fears that if "Palestinians reformers" fail to deliver on the Palestinian people's hope for a state, then "the moderate center could collapse and the next generation of Palestinians will become lost souls of unbridled extremism."
"It is not a time for half measures," she said.
Rice was cheered multiple times when discussing the need to defend Israel, fight anti-Semitism and confront Hamas and Iran. But the crowd was silent as she described the P.A. president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a true partner for peace and said now there was "responsible leadership" with which Israel could deal.
In an exclusive interview with JTA prior to the speech, Rice praised several steps taken by Abbas and his loyalists in the West Bank to fight terrorism.
Asked about fears that failure at an upcoming peace meeting in Annapolis could spark a new wave of violence, the secretary of state said that "no one can afford failure here" and "not acting is failure in these circumstances."
"When you have a Palestinian partner who is dedicated against violence and against terrorism, and who's struggling against an alternative view for the Palestinians," Rice said, "not acting I think has a much more significant risk than acting."
Police Conduct Raids in Olmert Probes
Israeli police raided government offices as part of three probes against Ehud Olmert.
Investigators from the National Fraud Unit searched the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Jerusalem municipality, Israel Lands Administration, Postal Authority and several other premises Sunday for potential evidence against the prime minister.
Olmert is under criminal investigation for his allegedly discounted purchase of a Jerusalem home shortly after he stepped down as the city's mayor. He is further accused of cronyism and bid-rigging during his term as industry and trade minister in the government of Ariel Sharon.
Olmert has denied any wrongdoing.
Accountant General Yaron Zelekha, who made a name for himself as Israel's anti-corruption watchdog by calling for the prime minister to be investigated, announced over the weekend he would be stepping down.
Zelekha said he was resigning as his job was done, but Israeli pundits noted that his tenure at the finance ministry had not been renewed.
Peres Addresses Turkish Parliament
Shimon Peres made history as the first Israeli president to address the Turkish parliament.
In his speech Tuesday attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, Peres expressed gratitude to Turkey for opening its doors to the Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492. He also voiced optimism about the outcome of the upcoming Annapolis peace summit, and said peace was possible with the Palestinians and other neighboring Arab countries.
"I came here to listen, not only to be heard, to exchange views in order to advance the efforts to reach a peace deal between us and the Palestinians, and to assess the chances of peace in the entire region, from Syria to Yemen," Peres said.
Abbas also addressed the parliament, thanking Turkey for supporting the Palestinians' efforts to gain their own state.
Israel to Extradite Alleged Pedophile
Stefan Colmer will become the first American extradited from Israel on sex abuse charges. Colmer, who was indicted on charges he abused two ultra-Orthodox boys in Brooklyn, will be sent back to the United States following a Jerusalem court ruling Sunday, the New York Daily News reported.
Colmer, 30, was arrested in June after he fled to Israel to avoid arrest. Israel and the United States had agreed only to extradite suspected sex criminals if they had been charged with rape, but the agreement was revised in January.
Colmer was indicted in Brooklyn on eight counts of sexual abuse. He allegedly performed oral sex on the two boys over a period of several months last year.
Educators Honored With Covenant Awards
The Covenant Foundation presented its annual awards for innovative Jewish educators Sunday at a gala dinner at the United Jewish Communities' General Assembly in Nashville. The awards include a $25,000 prize for each educator as well as a $5,000 prize for the recipient's home institution.
The foundation cited Tobie Brandriss, a biology teacher and science curriculum coordinator at SAR High School in New York; Bruce Powell, the founding head of school at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills; and Rabbi Philip Warmflash, the executive director of Jewish Outreach Partnership in Philadelphia. They were chosen from a pool of 148 nominees.
Brandriss, who designed a science curriculum that explores the potential tension between Judaism and science, was the first science teacher to receive the award, created in 1991 to honor forward-thinking Jewish educators. Powell founded three Jewish day schools in the Los Angeles area. Warmflash designs programs to help synagogues welcome unaffiliated families.
Jewish Rookie Makes Baseball History
Ryan Braun became baseball's first Jewish Rookie of the Year.
Braun, the slugging third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, picked up the award Monday in the National League. In the voting by the Baseball Writers of America, Braun edged Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 128-126.
Called up from the minor leagues in May, Braun batted .324 with 34 home runs and 97 runs batted in while leading the league with a slugging percentage of .634.Braun, who turns 24 on Saturday, is the son of an Israeli father and a Christian mother. Although he wasn't raised Jewish, the California native spoke this spring of the pride he takes in his Jewish heritage.
Last week, another Jewish player earned distinction when first baseman Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox was selected by his peers as a Gold Glove winner for his defensive excellence. Youkilis did not make an error this season.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.