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March 9, 2018

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 9, 2018 a exposes g g By Rafael Medoff (JNS)--Major American Jewish organizations are call- ing for stricter gun-control laws in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla that left 14 students and three staff members dead. A spokesperson for the women's organization Hadas- sah told JNS that the group supports all three of the legislative proposals under discussion in the aftermath of the shooting. One is a bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Jon Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to expand crimi- nal background checks on prospective purchasers of guns. A second legislative proposal, supported by many Democrats, is to renew the federal ban on assault rifles that expired in 2004. In addition, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is calling for legislation that would in- stitute universal background checks, ban individuals on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns and outlaw bump stocks, the device that enabled the Las Vegas shooter last October to upgrade his weapons from semiautomatic to fully automatic. On Feb. 20, President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Justice to take action to ban bump stocks. He also has indicated that he supports some strength- ening of background-check regulations. Hadassah is urging its members to promote the gun-control proposals at upcoming "Day in the Dis- trict" sessions, in which its members nationwide meet with Congress members in their local districts. Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union's Ad- vocacy Center in Washington, D.C told JNS that his organi- zation "will likely support" all three of the gun proposals. He said the Orthodox Union "has long supported common- sense measures to reduce gun violence, including ban- ning certain sophisticated assault weapons such as the AR-15 used in [the Parkland] attack." The organization is also seeking additional federal and state funds for schools for their security needs, al- though "the precise elements of an individual school's security program should be made by each school's lead- ership," said Diament. Some conservative pundits have suggested stationing armed guards in front of schools, though the logistics and costs for such a policy have not been analyzed. The Orthodox social-justice group Uri L'Tzedek supports all three of the legislative proposals and will be pro- moting them through a "beit midrash" series of educational programs within the Ortho- dox community. Participants will "learn and then pick up the phone," its president, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, told JNS. "We will also be us- ing our email blasts to 10,000 recipients and the thousands following our social media to get folks to visit senators and congressmen, call them and write to them." In addition, Uri L'Tzedek intends to hold public vigils to "mourn the losses [from gun violence] and raise public awareness," said Yanklowitz. In a statement to JNS, B'nai B'rith International expressed support for "legis- lation to limit access to the most dangerous weapons and high-capacity ammuni- tion magazines whose sole purpose is to maximize death counts." It also urged broader background checks, longer waiting periods between buying a gun and taking pos- session of it, and restrictions on the number of guns an individual may purchase. Barbara Weinstein, associ- ate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said her movement endorses the Cornyn-Murphy legislation, but believes that bill "will only begin to address the problem." She told JNS that Congress should estab- lish universal background checks, renew the ban on assault rifles and close the 'private sale' loophole, which permits a private party to sell guns without obtaining information about the buyer's criminal record or mental state. Other Jewish groups have been somewhat less specific in their positions. A spokesperson for the United Synagogue of Con- servative Judaism told JNS: "As a religious organization, we believe that Jewish values compel us to do all that is pos- sible, within the framework of U.S. law to protect our children and enact sensible gun-safety laws." The USCJ has not taken a position on pending gun- control legislation. A spokesman for the Anti- Defamation League told JNS that the ADL "has taken no position on specific legisla- tive efforts" other than those suggested in the group's 2013 resolution on gun con- trol. That resolution recom- mended "stricter controls governing the sale, possession and distribution of firearms"; "comprehensive background checks"; and "a responsible conversation on the [gun control] issue that does not further stigmatize mental illness." By Ben Sales (JTA)--Benjamin Netan- yahu is in trouble. Maybe. The Israeli prime minister is engulfed simultaneous in four separate scandals, and each day seems to bring him more bad news. Netanyahu could be indicted or pushed out of office -- or both. Whether this is the begin- ning of the end of the Bibi Netanyahu era, or just the latest challenge to a seasoned political survivor, is the hot topic in Israel. F-'~t, Netanyahu was ac- cused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal gifts from a wealthy American. Then he was ac- cused of making a shady deal with a newspaper publisher. Then he was accused of try- ing to quash an investigation of his wife. Then came news of another shady deal with another newspaper publisher. At least one of Netanyahu's friends has turned on him, and the police have recom- mended that he be indicted. His opponents have put up a billboard on a major highway suggesting he step down. His allies have hemmed and hawed. All the while, Netanyahu has maintained his inno- cence, claiming the media and police have conspired against him. Will it all mean the end of Netanyahu's nine-year rule? It's too soon to tell. But here's a quick guide to the biggest cor- ruption scandal to rock Israel in years and what it means for Jews outside of Israel. He's accused of bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice Netanyahu is facing an ar- ray of allegations that are hard to follow, even for those who follow Israeli politics. Here's a rundown of the four main accusations: Accepting a bribe from Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan in the form of champagne and cigars totaling about $200,000. The prime minister allegedly returned the favor by pushing for a U.S. visa for Milchan, as well as a beneficial tax break. Illegally negotiating for more favorable media cover- age by agreeing to back legisla- tion hurting a newspaper that supports his government in return for favorable coverage from a newspaper that usually opposes it. Trying to obstruct an investigation of his wife, Sara. A senior aide to the prime minister allegedly offered the post of attorney general to a judge if the judge agreed to stop the probe. Sara Netan- yahu was indicted last year for improperly spending state funds on fancy cooking. Illegally negotiating for more favorable media cover- age--again. This time, he al- legedly supported regulations favoring Bezeq, an Israeli telecom giant, in return for favorable coverage on a news website owned by Bezeq's majority stakeholder. Last week, the Israel Police recommended that Netan- yahu be indicted in the first two cases. The third and fourth emerged this week, turning up more heat on the beleaguered leader. Netanyahu has been in trouble before. But this time it looks real. The prime minister has been accused multiple times of illegally charging the state for personal expenses, along with other allegations, but none of them has ever resulted in an indictment. This time could be different. Along with the recommended indictments, in the cases that emerged this week, a close confidant has agreed to be- come a state witness in return for avoiding prison time. If Israel's attorney general decides to indict Netanyahu, it would be an unprecedented legal threat to his leadership. This could be the end of his nine-year rule. Will Netanyahu have to resign? Other prime ministers facing corruption scandals have quit before this point in the process. Ehud Olmert, who went to prison for bribery, announced his resignation a couple months before the police recommended that he be indicted. But it's unclear whether Netanyahu will leave his post. According to a Feb. 21 poll on Israeli Channel 2, half of Israelis say Netanyahu should step down, as opposed to 33 percent who think he should stay. But none of his political allies are calling for him to resign (something that did happen with Olmert), saying they'll wait to see if he is actu- ally indicted. Through it all, Netanyahu has remained defiant, denying the allegations and attacking the police and the media for seeking to topple him. He's even adopted the term "fake news," a favorite of President Donald Trump. "What's happened over the past two days is simply madness," Netanyahu said in avideo posted to Facebook on Wednesday. "A scandal. False claims are brought, lies, as part of a hunting campaign against me and my family that's gone on for years And we know the goal: to forcibly create a public cloud over the prime minister. Simply unbelievable." IfNetanyahu does resign, it will be the end of a defining era for Israel. He has served as prime minister for nearly a decade, representing Israel pugnaciously on the world stage-- opposing Iran, picking fights with (or, as manywould have it, standing up to) the Obamaadministration, court- ing the Trump administration and taking a (usually) hard line on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. His Israeli supporters credit him with guiding Israel through numerous threats in a chaotic region, advocating for Israel internationally, ex- panding its relations in Africa and Asia, and maintaining a prosperous economy at home. His opponents blame him for. diplomatic inaction on the Palestinian front, economic inequality, personal corrup- tion and stoking internal divisions in Israeli society. Even if he does resign, that does not mean the Israeli government will lurch to the center or left. Netanyahu stepping down would likely trigger an election, and polls show his right-wing Likud party again winning the most votes. His main rivals, centrist Yair Lapid and Avi Gabbay, the head of Israel's center-left Labor Party, have consistently lagged behind him in surveys. By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Sheldon Adelson's offer to help pay for the new US Embassy in Jerusalem is getting a thumb's down from a range of observ- ers who support the embassy's relocation. The Associated Press had the exclusive on Friday morn- ing, and JTA confirmed it with sources who have been apprised of the State De- partment's deliberations. State Department lawyers are poring over the law books to determine how to pull off America's first privately funded embassy. Why the Trump admin- istration would want this? Well, no one's saying, but cost-cutting seems likely. The move to temporary digs, due in May, is eventually going to cost taxpayers about $60 million. An embassy built from scratch will be much pricier. The newly opened US Embassy in London cost $1 billion. Presumably, a Jerusalem embassy will come under $1 billion (although who can guess). Adelson, worth an estimated $40 billion, can afford it. Adelson's spokesman de- clined to comment. JTA asked various people who have been intimately involved in advocating for the embassy move, in some cases for decades, what they thought of the plan to priva- tize the embassy. The five who talked thought it was a terrible idea. The triumph of Trump's recognition of Jerusalem, they tended to agree, is that it came about honestly because recognizing an ally's capital is the right thing to do. Trump himself said Friday inaspeech to conservative activists that he came under intense pres- sure from the international community not to make the move. The optics of a rich donor paying the US government for the embassy, critics said, makes the move look less like a principled policy than a personal favor. "Citizensvolunteeringtheir resources and energies to ease the government's burdens is laudable," said Jason Isaacson, theAmericanJewish Commit- tee's director of government and international affairs. "But an American Embassy represents--and must be seen indisputably as representing-- the United States of America, rather than any generous in- dividual or segment of Ameri- can society. The American Embassy in Jerusalem--as with all American embassies around the world--should serve, and belong to, every American equally." Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, who is close to Adelson, referred to AP's re- porting that Adelson might seek other funders, including among pro-Israel Christians. "This is a United States government projectandpolicy, I don't think it should be 'the evangelicals, the Jews made this happen.' It should be crys- tal clear the US government made this happen," he said. "I don't think it's a good idea for any private citizen to pay for the US Embassy to be moved." Daniel Shapiro, the Obama administration's ambassador to Israel who has since leav- ing the position advocated for a move, said he did not believe that State Department lawyers would sign off on the arrangement. Once Adelson started funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S. government's coffers, there would be immediate conflict of interest questions, including, what is the casino magnate and pro-Israel phi- lanthropist getting in return? "When individuals or cor- porations are giving some- thing, there's an expectation they may be getting some- thing in return," Shapiro said. "That concern about quid pro quo is naturally pregnant in such a proposal." Also against the idea was William Brown, the ambassa- dor to Israel under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He wrote memos to both presidents recommend- ing moving the embassy to Jerusalem. "I've worked in embassies that could use some money," said Brown. "But not this way." If Adelson really wants to feel useful, there are some limited options, said Shapiro. "Embassy 4th of July parties can receive both cash (usu- ally a few thousand dollars) and in-kind contributions from US companies operating overseas. They are then listed as sponsors, which is a form of promoting US businesses." Abraham Foxman, the emeritus national direc- tor of the Anti-Defamation League--who also thought private funding for embas- sies was a terrible idea--had a different proposal. "Itwould be nice iftheAdel- sons could pay for the art in the embassy," he said. "There's never a budget for art." The State Department runs an "Art in Embassies" program that solicits private money to help create "vi- tal cross-cultural dialogue and mutual understanding through the visual arts and dynamic artist exchanges."