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June 13, 2014

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 13, 2014 By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)--The new Palestinian unity govern- ment brought together rivals Hamas and Fatah, but it has opened a divide between allies Israel and the United States. "I'm deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas," Prime Minister Benjamin Netan- yahu said Tuesday in an interview with The Associ- ated Press. The Obama administra- tion's announcement this week that it would continue working with and funding the Palestinian Authority under the new Hamas-backed unity government appears to have taken Israel aback. It represents something of a shift for the United States, which previously had voiced sympathy for Israeli concerns about the Palestinian unity government. Analysts said the sharpness of the Israeli reaction should be seen in the context of anxieties that this and other U.S. moves could leave Israel isolated on vital matters. "Take a step back and look at the trend line to see Israelis are deeply concerned about a nuclear Iran and the Americans' engagement with Iran," said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank. "We're now looking at another situation where an illicit actor that endangers Israel is now being rehabilitated." Nathan Brown, a profes- sor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, said Israel's concerns were about more than just the issue of Hamas. "It's clear that the U.S. and Israelis are not really coordi- nating on the issue," Brown said. "Moving the dispute into public is unusual and it shows how worried Israel is about this development." PalestinianAuthority Pres- ident Mahmoud Abbas on Monday swore in a govern- ment of technocrats that has the backing of his Fatah party, which is preeminent in Judea and Samaria, and Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that governs Gaza. Abbas said the new govern- ment would abide by peace agreements and recognize Israel, although Hamas continues to reject both principles. State Department spokes- woman Jen Psaki said at Monday's daily briefing for reporters that the United States would continue to deal with the new government and that funding would continue. "At this point, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim techno- cratic government that does not include ministers affili- ated with Hamas," she said. "Moving forward, we will be judging this government by its actions," she said. "Based on what we know now, we intend to work with this government, but we'll be watching closely to ensure that it upholds the principles that President Abbas reiter- ated today." The willingness to treat the new government no different- ly than the old one, which had no Hamas influence, came as a surprise. In a statement over the weekend, Psaki had said that Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his concern about the new government in a phone call to Abbas. Israel's ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, posted his reaction to Face- bookwithin hours of Monday's State Department announce- ment of the U.S. position. "Israel is deeply disap- pointed with the State De- partment's comments today on the Palestinian unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization respon- sible for the murder of many hundreds of Israelis, which has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, and which remains committed to Israel's destruction," Dermer said. He suggested that the technocrats provided cover to terrorists. "This Palestinian unity government is a government of technocrats backed by ter- rorists, and should be treated as such," Dermer said. "With suits in the front office and terrorists in the back office, it should not be business as Usual." Israeli envoys rarely pub- licly rebuke U.S. administra- tions. Netanyahu last month formally suspended peace ne- gotiations with Abbas in part because of the announcement that governance talks with Hamas were underway. His security Cabinet reiterated that posture in a unanimous vote Monday and said in a statement that it would con- sider sanctions against the Palestinian Authority. Congressional lawmakers from both parties said Hamas backing for the government could jeopardize U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority -- between $400 million and $500 million a year. There was, however, a subtle difference in the state- ments between Republican and Democratic lawmakers, with Democrats stopping short of calls for an immedi- ate cutoff. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the highest-ranking Demo- crat on the House Appro- priations Committee, said the Obama administration should continue to advance peace talks efforts. But she said funding for the Palestinian Issam Rimawi/Flash90 Prime Minister Rami AI-Hamdallah, at head of table, attending his first meeting of the new Palestinian unity government Cabinet in the Samarian city of Ramallah, June 3, 2014. Authority was in "jeopardy" as long as Hamas rejected the preconditions for peace talks set down in 2006 bythe Quartet, the international grouping that mediates the peace talks: recognizing Isra- el, renouncing terrorism and abiding by past agreements. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, said unequivocally that funding should stop. "Until such time that it is determined that assistance to this so-called technocratic government is consistentwith our own interests, principles, and laws, it is incumbent on the Administration to suspend U.S. assistance," he said in a statement. Major American Jewish groups also stopped short of calling for an immediate cutoff in funds but backed a review of funding for the Palestinian Authority. "U.S. law is clear--no funds can be provided to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates or has undue influence," the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement. "We now urge Congress to conduct a thor- ough review of continued U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority to ensure that the law is completely followed and implemented." But Lara Friedman, the director of government rela- tions for Americans for Peace Now, said the new government likely falls within the law. "With no Hamas members inside the new government, no evidence of Hamas having 'undue influence' over it, and clear statements from Abbas that itwill respectthe Quartet conditions, the fact is that there is simply nothing in law requiring aid to the P.A. to cease," she said. Friedman noted that as recently as last month, after the talks between Abbas and Hamas were launched, AIPAC opposed new legislation that would cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, in part deferring to Israeli concerns that such actions would undercut Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. Robert Satloff, the execu- tive director of the Washing- ton Institute for Near East Policy, wrote that according to his conversations with Israeli and U.S. government officials, the Americans had agreed to support Israel's refusal to deal with the new unity government even as the United States maintained ties with it. But with a clear difference in policy emerging, such sup- port might not be enough to assure Israel, Satloff added. "It is difficult to see what 'support' means if the practi- cal result is U.S. acquiescence to Israel's political isolation, which is the expected result of the considerable daylight that would open between the two countries on this critical issue if they chose different paths," he wrote. By Ben Sales JERUSALEM (JTA)--Its leaders call it a "historic development," a "paradigm shift" and a "change in the relationship" between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. But when it comes to the details of the Joint Initiative of the Government of Israel and World Jewry, key ques- tions have yet to be answered, including what it will do and who will fund it. Conceived last year as a partnership between the Is- raeli government, the Jewish Agency for Israel and major Diaspora Jewish bodies, the initiative aims to strengthen Diaspora Jewish identity and connections between Israel and Jews worldwide. Last Sunday, Israel's Cabi- net voted to invest upward of $50 million on the initiative through 2017. The govern- ment intends to increase the sum to $100 million annually by 2022. The government wants Di- aspora sources--federations, philanthropic foundations and individual donors-- to contribute double those sums for two-thirds of the initiative's total budget. The funding will go both toward expanding existing programs for young adults and creating new ones. Custom Print Marketing Digital & CffT~t Pm6ng Direct Mail Services Envelopes Inv~:atiom &-~ Brod~ & Boc~ets Forrns g- Letterheads 407-767-7110 205 Nor~ ~- Lonmmod, FL ~rlS0 ww~ek~mqn~m~n~ M~ This Ad ~d Reo~K~ 18% Disco_~ "It's a historic development that the Israeli government has decided to take more re- sponsibility for strengthening the identity of Jewish commu- nities," the Jewish Agency's chairman, Natan Sharansky, told JTA. "We're talking about Jewish identity built on a con- nection to Israel." Given the success of Birth- right Israel, a free, 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish young adults, the initiative will focus on immersive experiences in Israel, college campus pro- grams, Jewish summer camps and experiential learning, Sharansky said. But though the Israeli gov- ernment has set aside money for the initiative, it has neither lined up the matching grants from Diaspora foundations nor has it outlined the specific programs that would receive the funding. A planning meeting for the initiative in November 2013 drew a virtual who's who of major Jewish organizations and foundations. But Sharan- sky mentioned only Jewish Federations of NorthAmerica as a potential initial source of funding from the United States, saying he didn't want to single others out before a plan had been set. "There are many unan- swered questions at this point," the Jewish Federa- tions' CEO, Jerry Silverman, told JTA. "Six months from now many of those questions will be answered. We're not at the finish line. We're at the 30-yard line. We feel confident we'll get to the finish line together on this." Silverman said that the Jewish Federations had yet to decide on an initial sum to contribute to the initia- tive and that his network was not involved in setting the budget passed by the Israeli Cabinet last Sunday. Sharansky set a timetable of one to two months for pro- gram proposals to be drawn up. Following the initiative's lengthy planning process thus far, which has included con- ferences and an online forum for young Jews worldwide to suggest programs, Sharansky said that "coming to practical decisions comes very quickly." Dvir Kahana, the director- general of Israel's Jerusalem and DiasporaAffairs Ministry, said the initiative still requires strategic planning in addition to practical steps. The Jerusalem and Dias- pora Affairs Ministry, as well as the Finance Ministry, will provide Israeli government funding for the initiative. It will be run by a body including representatives from the Is- raeli government, the Jewish Agency and Diaspora funders. "We're going to have a strategic plan for the next 25 years," he said. "From that strategic perspective, with key people, we'll make deci- sions both regarding existing programs and programs we need to create." According to the text of the resolution passed by Israel's Cabinet, a key portion of the initiative is strengthening the relationship between Is- rael and Diaspora Jewry. The first stage of the initiative will focus both on bringing young Diaspora Jews to Israel and on Israel education in Diaspora communities. There has not been a decision whether the project's initial stage will also educate Israeli Jews aboutworld Jewry, Sharansky said. The JewishAgency, histori- cally focused on promoting immigration to Israel, has in recent years taken up a new mission of strengthening Jew- ish identity in the Diaspora and peoplehood. It now of- fers Diaspora Jews long-term experiences in Israel without a commitment to immigrate. Sharansky said that while Orthodox Jews can count on ritual observance to keep them engaged in the Jewish community, Israel is the only proven anchor to ensure Jew- ish identity for non-Orthodox Jews. "In the non-Orthodox world nothing stops assimi- lation except connection to Israel," he said. "In Orthodox communities, awareness of Jewish identity is very high. They live through their faith and Jewish tradition. When you move to others you find out that this deep feeling of your belonging to this Jewish story and your desire to stay inside of it is becoming thin- ner and thinner."