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February 22, 2008     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 22, 2008
 

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 22, 2008 JTA Weekly Summary Following are Jewish Telegraphic Agency's news briefs for Monday, February 18, 200Z Olmert, Abbas to meet Tuesday Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas are to meet Tuesday to discuss final status issues. The Israeli prime minister and Palestinian Authority president will hold the latest in their accelerated summits Tuesday, at Olmert's Jerusalem residence, officials said. Israel and the Palestinians revived peace talks at the Annapolis conference last November and vowed to reach an accord by 2009, but progress has been hampered by mutual distrust. Olmert said in a speech Sunday that one of the toughest negotiating issues, the future status of Jerusalem, was not being discussed at this stage, With Abbas' agreement. Israel reserved on Kosovo Israel is taking await-and-see attitude toward Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. A statement from the foreign ministry Monday said that the Jewish state "was following the developments and will formulate its position later on." Kosovo was the southern region of Serbia where a war between the majority ethnic Albanians and Serb troops ended in stalemate in 1999, after which it was administered by the United Nations. The ethnic Albanian government of Kosovo, backed by the United States and key European Union countries, is set to become Europ s newest country. Israel has strong historical ties to Serbia, which opposes Kosovo's independence. In a December interview an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman told JTA that Israel would not be the first country to recognize Kosovo, but added it would not be the last. Israel to fortify some southern homes Israel will fortify a limited number of communi- ties riear Gaza against Palestinian rocket attacks. A Cabinet-level Committee appointed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Sunday that around 8,000 homes in towns and kibbutzim within 2 miles of the Gaza border will, over the next two years, be provided with fortified "safe rooms" and have their ceilings bolstered to withstand rocket strikes. The $100 million plan is meant to complement Iron Dome, an Israeli anti-rocket system currently under development and which, when completed, is expected to shoot down rockets with a range of more than 2 miles. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said Iron Dome will be ready for trials in 2010. Many Palestin- ian rockets have 2- to 3-mile ranges, but some have reached as far as 9 miles. By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA) Americans who were victims of terrorist attacks in Israelare pushing back against reported Bush administration plans to intervene in successful law= suits against the Palestinian Authority. Families of those who died or were wounded in at-- tacks lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week ahead of a planned meeting last Wednesday with top officials of the State and Justice de- partments. Sources say the Bush administration is leaning toward asking a court not to grant the victims hundreds of millions of dollars they won in court rulings in recent years. The r ulings were based on a number of laws passed by Congress allowing Ameri- cans to sue foreign states and entities that enable terrorist attacks. Each of the more than 20 families represented at the meetings won lawsuits that assigned some degree of re- sponsibility to P.A. officials, including the late President Yasser Arafat. Sources familiar with the case said the U.S. government was ready to decide in favor of the Palestinian Authority late last month, but delayed until the end of February in part to hear pleas from the families. The cash-strapped Pales- American victims of terrorist attacks in Israel lobby on Capitol Hill against reported government plans to intervene in their efforts to force the Palestinian Authority to pay out lawsuit awards. tinian Authority has pressed the Bush administration to intervene for more than a year, arguing that crippling lawsuits would hamper its efforts to resist extremists and make peace with Israel. U.S. officials resisted the request but in December; a federal judge asked the government for an opinion, leading the government to consider the EA.'s appeal. State Department and White House officials did not return calls for comment. A Justice Department official would only confirm that the meeting last Wednesday was taking place. The Washington Post quot- ed a State Department spokes- man last Tuesday saying that no decision had been made on whether to intervene. Afif Safieh, the Palestine Liberation Organization rep- resentative in Washington, told the newspaper that there was "a rethinking in the State Department that I wholeheartedly welcome." The suits, he added, were "politically and ideologically motivated." Reached last Tuesday by JTA, Safieh said he had noth- ing to add. He is due to leave his post in May. "The affairs are in the hands of different legal firms," he said. The families involved said they were shocked by the news that the Bush administration was ready to intervene. "I was shocked and frus- trated," said Leslye Knox, who has struggled to raise six children after terrorists fatally shot their father, Aharon Ellis, and four others at a Hadera bat mitzvah celebration in 2002. "My feeling is that Congress passed a law to have an avenue to pursue justice and to make the terrorists accountable for what they have done to our families." A U.S. federal court in December ordered the Pal- estinian Authority to pay $174 million to Knox and her family, members of the Black Hebrews sect. She is raising her family near Atlanta. Knox was in Washington Lawsuits on page 15A Call on Central Florida's Exclusively Jewish Funeral Home for Details Regarding: Traditional Jewish Funerals Non-Traditional Services Interstate Shipping Pre-Arranged Funerals (Shalom Assurance Plan) Headstone, Grave Markers (Cardinal Memorials) 640 Lee Rd. Orlando, Florida W.E. "Manny" Adams, LFD Louis B. Wilson, LFD, Manager James R. Cardinal, Executive Director Michael Meyer, Family Pre-need Counselor By Ben Harris WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Reporter's Notebook: For" two hours one morning two weeks ago, the proceedings of the Financial Services Com- mittee of the U.S. House of Representatives had all the excitement of an afternoon spent watching grass grow. Members thanked the chair- man for convening the meet- them were Stuart Eizenstat, who as an envoy in the Clinton administration negotiated landmark restitution settle- ments with European coun- tries; Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and Sam Dubbin, a Miami attorney who has represented survivors in several restitu- tion-related lawsuits. Frank urged them to dis- ing, witnesses thanked the pense with the usual thank- members for their questions, and the chairman thanked everyone for keeping it brief. But after a nearly hour-long break to cast some votes in the House, the committee chair- man, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), was in no mood for further delays. Gavel at the ready, he interrupted one speaker after the next at the Feb. 7 hearings, urging them to get to the point. At issue before the com- mittee was the Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act, ahill thatwould require insur- ance companies to provide information on Holocaust- era insurance claims to a federal registry maintained by the U.S. Department of Commerce. More contentiously, it would pave the way for a new round of lawsuits against European insurers, many of whom believed they had finally put the issue of Holo- caust-era claims to rest. At the witness table was a who's who of Holocaust restitution figures. Among yous and other pleasantries, and he ruthlessly cut them off once they had exceeded their time limit. And then it was Kent turn. He kept talking, righ[ through a bang of Frank's gavel. Finally, the congressman told him that his time was up. "That'li have to do, Mr. Kent," Frank said after the second gavel bang. "You said another minute and we're over that." "No, I do appreciate," Kent protested. "I just have to finish." "Ten seconds," Frank said. "I cannot do it." "Then we'll get back to you in the questioning. We're go- ingway over on all these and I did try to advise you. The next witness will be--" "Can I just finish my con- clusion? offered Kent, who Opposes the legislation. "No," Frank said, "we'll get to you in the questioning." The proposed legislation, authored by two Florida law- makers--Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Robert Wexler--is a response to the perceived failure of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. Established in 1998 in re- .sp nse to mounting pressure on European insurers, the commission established a pro- cess through which survivors could register claims against a handful of participating companies, though the com- mission later expanded the number to 75 through ne- gotiated agreements. Claims were to be evaluated based on a .relaxed standard of proof, in recognition of the fact that most claimants lacked sufficient documentation for their insurance policies nearly 60 years after the end of World War II. More than 90,000 claims were received over nearly nine years of operations of the in- surance commission, known as ICHEIC. More than $300 million was doled out to about half of the claimants. "To defenders of the process, these results represented a monumental achievement. But to critics, the final pay- ments pale in comparison to the value of pre-war insur- ances policies, total estimates of which range from $2 billion to $200 billion. The bill has proven to be equally divisive. Some Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Bill on page 15A