Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 54, No. 13, Ed. 1 Thursday, March 30, 2000 Page: 4 of 24
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TEXAS JEWISH POST. THURSDAY. MARCH 30 2000 — IN OUR 54TH YEARI
Gloom, Anger in Wake of Geneva:
Admimstranon officials were hop-
ing Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak might bring a little Mideast
magic along on his Washington visit
this week, or at least some new ideas
that might help rescue the foundenng
To critics, the portrayal of Mubarak
as a potential miracle worker was the
clearest indication yet of the adminis-
tration's desperation in the wake of a
big Mideast setback.
Early in the week, officials here
were still grappling with the conse-
quences of Sunday's failed summit
with Syrian President Hafez Assad in
Despite official disclaimers, the
White House really did expect a sig-
nificant breakthrough; at the very least
they anticipated an agreement to re-
sume negotiations between Syria and
Israel, which were suspended after the
Shepherdstown meetings early in the
Several administration officials de-
scribed a reaction of shock.
There’s a real feriing of ‘where do we
go next?’" said one. "Sometimes, mo-
ments of disappointment quickly yield to
unexpected new openings But nght
now there's nothing on the horizon "
This source said it was unlikely
Mubarak could provide much of a
"He might he helpful on the PaJes-
•inian track, where he has sometimes
helped calm things down," he said. “It’s
much less likely the Synans are going
to listen to him; there's too much ri-
Officials in Jerusalem weren't much
happier Last week, they leaked word
that they were quietly working Capitol
Hill on behalf of economic aid to
Syria in the event of a deal — a leak
intended as a gesture to Assad.
But the Syrian leader seemed obliv-
ious; at Geneva, he was as unforth-
coming as ever.
"This is the clearest evidence yet that
absolutely nobody really understands
the sphinx of Damascus," said an Israeli
official “All the rationales we've heard
for his behavior — his health, succes-
sion problems, the economy — don’t
explain his performance in Geneva."
Apparently Clinton agreed This
week he offered praise for the Israeli
role in the talks, veiled criticism of
“I can tell you (the Israelis) have
made very, very serious efforts on all
tracks," he told reporters “And I think
you will continue to see progress, at
least on the Palestinian track."
But as for Assad, “the ball is now in
Assad's court," he said. T am going to
look forward to hearing from him And
we are going to talk about what else I
Meanwhile, the Palestinian-lsraeli
talks recessed for two weeks while the
delegations go home to consult with
The Palestinians claimed that noth-
ing substantive was accomplished in
the eight-day session, conducted in
seclusion at an air force base outside
Washington Israeli officials said there
was good but less-than-dramatic
By James David Besser
TJP Washington Correspondent
here last week. Foreign Minister Amr
Moussa acknowledged that anti-Semi-
tism is a problem in his country, but
said it would disappear once the Is-
raeli-Palestiman conflict is resolved
The State Department spokesman.
James Foley, claimed “serious, inten-
sive and. indeed, productive" talks, but
pointed to no breakthroughs.
Israeli and U.S. officials say the
mood of the talks was unusually good
— that was also apparent at a private
dinner held over the weekend at the
home of a lop U.S. negotiator.
Negotiators are still trying to ham-
mer out a framework agreement laying
out the route to a comprehensive "final
status" agreement in mid-September
— a goal Israeli officials still insist is
reachable, especially now that their
government can focus most of its en-
ergies on the Palestinian track.
Mubarak Arrives, Hand Out-
Mubarak’s Washington foray was
not without its controversies.
While the administration was fo-
cused on the foundenng peace talks,
Mubarak emphasized something more
tangible — money.
The Egyptian leader had an exten-
sive round of meetings with congres-
sional leaders; his goal, sources here
say, was to boost U.S. aid. or at least
find ways to put it in his government’s
Israel and Egypt agreed to a volun-
tary cut in economic aid in 1998, but
Israel is getting some of the money
back in increased military assistance.
Mubarak wants the same kind of deal,
or early disbursal of the annual aid al-
lotment — a benefit Israel already gets.
But lawmakers are dubious because
of Egypt’s inconsistent record in the
Mideast peace process, the continuing
anti-Semitism in the government-con-
trolled press and human rights abuses.
And a corrupt economy, they say,
means added U.S. aid would be squan-
This week Rep. Nita Lowey (D-
NY) and Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) col-
lected signatures on a letter to Secre-
tary of Slate Madeleine Albright citing
recent incidents of anti-Semitism in
the state-sponsored press.
“Egypt, as one of the countries in
the region at peace with Israel, has a
special responsibility to refrain from
remarks which prey on the biases and
prejudices that exist in the region,"
they wrote, and warned that “the trend
of anti-Semitism continues to envelop
the Middle East... the Egyptian gov-
ernment must take the lead in the Arab
world in condemning such remarks,
not propagating them."
The lawmakers didn’t tie their com-
plaints to aid, but congressional
sources say many lawmakers ARE
making the connection And pro-Israel
groups, which usually lead the way in
promoting aid for Egypt, have been
noticeably silent as Mubarak dials for
dollars on the Hill.
“On questions such as early disbur-
sal. Congress has the final say." said an
official with one pro-Israel group here
"And nght now there's not a lot of
sympathy for Egypt's position Egypt
doesn’t deserve more favorable terms,
and there's no reason we should go to
bat for them now."
In a meeting With Jewish leaders
Gore Campaign Finance Proposal:
Less than Meets the Eye:
Pro-Israel forces, which depend on
the current campaign finance system
for much of their political clout, aren't
exactly quaking in their boots over
Vice President Al Gore’s sudden inter-
est in reform.
This week Gore — seeking to at-
tract the voters who fueled the brief
John McCain surge in the Republican
primaries and to distance himself from
his own campaign finance controver-
sies — said serious reform would be a
top domestic priority of his adminis-
His two-part plan would go far be-
yond the current McCain-Feingold
bill, which is still bogged down in
“It would radically change the na-
ture of political giving.” said Kean
University political scientist Gilbert
Kahn. "On the other hand. Jews have
always found ways to express their
support for the candidates they're in-
terested in; when the rules change.
Jews and all other advocacy groups
have found new mechanisms permit-
ted by the law to support their friends."
Kahn said Gore's plan is still too
sketchy to judge its overall effective-
ness. “Right now. it’s pie in the sky. It
MIGHT have merit, but we have to
wait for the details."
Gore announced support for the
current McCain-Feingold bill which
would ban unrestricted “soft” money
More controversial is his plan to
create a $7.1 billion endowment that
would finance congressional cam-
Gore said individuals, unions and
would be urged
with tax deduc-
tions as a sweet-
between the giv-
ing of money and the gaining of influ-
ence in these election contests,” Gore
said in a speech on Monday.
RLPA Fight Gets Dirty:
The fight over the Religious Liberty
Protection Act (RLPA) has taken some
ugly turns in recent days.
Once favored by almost every
major Jewish group, the legislation —
which would make it harder for gov-
ernment bodies to restrict religious
practices, even inadvertently — has
become a divisive issue because of
concerns by some groups that it would
trump existing civil rights laws.
That led the Religious Action Cen-
ter of Reform Judaism and the Anti-
Defamation League to withdraw sup-
port; other Jewish groups are now sit-
ting on the fence, while the Orthodox
Union and the American Jewish Con-
gress continue to support it.
Recently the America Civil Liber-
ties Union — an onginal backer which
is now fighting against the bill —
dubbed the measure the "Bob Jones
Protection Act." claiming it would
“kick off a new round of lawsuits by
businesses and individuals that will at-
tempt to do what Bob Jones Universi-
ty tried nearly two decades ago — use
a religious liberty claim to get out of
complying with civil rights laws."
The ACLU action alert warned that
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-
MS) “and other right-wing senators"
are rushing to a floor vote, without full
"The rhetoric has become very in-
temperate, and there’s a danger it will
pit religion against civil rights in a
very damaging way,” said Reva Price,
Washington representative for the
Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
Several Jewish activists and staffers
for Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), an
original RLPA sponsor, met with
ACLU leaders last week and blasted
the group for the harsh tone of its ac-
tion alerts — and for misrepresenting
the details of the Bob Jones legal case,
in which the fundamentalist college
lost its tax exempt status because of
The OU’s Nathan Diament, director
of the group's Institute for Public Af-
fairs, blamed the civil rights groups for
escalating the battle.
"Important to note which side has
started the mudslinging," he said.
"From our perspective, it’s very disap-
pointing the ACLU has gone down
this road. We've consistently worked
to bridge the differences between the
two sides, but their side just isn’t inter-
ested in talking anymore."
Putin: Time To Act Against Anti-
Now that he’s won election as Rus-
sia’s president, Vladimir Putin can get
serious about fighting anti-Semitism
— including the anti-Semitism in his
own election campaign.
That was the gist of several strong-
ly worded communiques from NCSJ
— the recently renamed group devot-
ed to Jews from the former Soviet
see WASH WATCH p. 17
Texas Jewish Post
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Wisch, J. A. & Wisch, Rene. Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 54, No. 13, Ed. 1 Thursday, March 30, 2000, newspaper, March 30, 2000; Fort Worth, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth754560/m1/4/: accessed November 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .