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July 23, 2004

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23, 2004 PAGE 1-~ pean don't know about how the new head of Commission stinian that's not nec- agreed candidate 25 countries the bloc's vast ex- Jose Manuel is of a country friendly Durao Barroso regarded as cist. time, approval by entwas arroso is Romano .Country's center- lewish reaction to Positive, with one Jew- Durao the least e candi- Australia ng the sentenc- accused agents, for to pass - Keiman, 31, 50, used the a wheelchair- suffering from apply for pleaded month to being part of a Pengagedinun- to obtain passport. l'hurs- Court ment. to pay Cerebral Palsy Zealandas shortly at- Helen Clark, strong that were act- Israel's "New these of the she explanation ed.~, the Mossad. Sha- try to relations is can be fixed," sanctions ;its to and SUspend- by Israel Katsav dates." That remark reflects a certain relief among Jew- ish groups that E.U. member states didn't appoint someone with a more biased approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it also marks a general lack of evidence about Durao Barroso's views on the subject, on which he rarely has commented publicly. As one Israeli Foreign Ministry source familiar with Portuguese affairs pointed out, Durao Barroso gener- ally has been even-handed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, mostly limiting him- self to calling for anend to all violence, evenwhen other Eu- ropean leaders directed their criticism toward Israel. "We hope he'll bring new winds to the European Union, for balance and more under- standing of the Israeli posi- tion," the source told JTA. Last month, following long deliberations among E.U. leaders, Durao Barroso emerged as the principal center-right candidate, overtaking Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. to visit New Zealand, when he visits Australia later this year, will be declined. Israelis visiting New Zea- land in any official govern- ment capacity will be required to apply for visas. Foreign Ministry consultations with Israel, due later this year, will be suspended. Approval for appointment of the new Israeli ambassador will be delayed and accredita- tionvisits to Israel suspended. Officials from New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as trade officials, will observe strict constraints on contactwith Israel's honorary consuls in the country. Though no evidence was offered to show that Cara and Kelman were Mossad agents, Clark said that "the breach of New Zealand laws and sovereignty by agents of the Israeli government has seriously strained our rela- tionship with Israel." Israel's acting ambassador in the area, Orna Sagiv, who is based in Canberra, Australia, told JTA, "I have studied her statement and, of course, Jerusalem has a copy. I am very sorry about the current situation, given the traditional friendly relations between the two countries. Israel values her relations with New Zealand and will do everything possible to re- store them to normal." David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council and the honorary Israeli consul in New Zealand, said, "Prime Minister Clark has made an accusation without offering proof. I feel deeply affronted by it. I cannot understand the strength of this reaction." Earlier this year, he said, it was discovered that false New Zealand passports were being produced in Thailand, but no diplomatic action was taken. "Both Prime Minister Clark and Foreign Minister Phil Goff declined our invitations this Other possible candidates, such as Britain's Chris Pat- ten--the E.U.'s outgoing external affairs commis- sioner and a forceful critic of Israel--also dropped by the wayside as E.U. heads searched for a candidate acceptable to all 25 member states. As a former foreign minis- ter, Durao Barroso is familiar with the Middle East, has visited Israel and has avoided the sometimes heavy-handed criticism some European leaders adopt toward Israel's anti-terrorist actions. According to Ester Much- nik, vice president of the Lis- bon Jewish community and a commentator in the Portu- guese press, Durao Barroso is known for his "correct" positions regarding Israel and his country's Jews. He also likely would help steer the European Union to- ward a more balanced stance on the Middle East and better ties with the United States, she said. "I have never heard him say anything bad about Israel," Muchnik said in a telephone interview. photo by Brett Phibbs/The New Zealand Herald Alleged Mossad agent Uri Kelman wears a mask to court to hide his face, in Auckland on July 2. Israelis Kelman and Elisha Cara have pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to obtain a New Zea- land passport unlawfully. year to join us" at Israeli In- dependence Day celebrations in Wellington, he noted. "In previous years we have always enjoyed the prime minister's attendance when available." Cara had claimed to operate a travel agency in Sydney, where he had lived since 2001 with his wife and children. But journalists' at- tempts to locate the agency proved fruitless. Kelman told his investiga- tors he acts as an adviser to European companies special- izing in security, Ha'aretz reported. Two other men were in- volved in the fraud. Zev Wil- liam Barkan, who lived near the cerebral palsy sufferer and applied for the passport, fled New Zealand before the arrests were made and has not been seen since. A fourth man remains unidentified. On completion of their prison terms, Kelman and Cara will be deported, New Zealand officials said. "Relations with us have been very friendly," she added, noting that before his appointment in Brussels, Durao Barroso had accepted an invitation to attend the centennial of Lisbon's main synagogue later this year. Durao Barroso's friendli- ness toward the Jewish com- munity also reflects a certain pride Portugal takes in its Jew- ish past. Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio refers regularly to his Jewish origins. Portugal has very little recent history of anti-Semi- tism, and its fascist dicta- torship during World War II refrained from adopting anti-Jewish legislation. Moreover, according to Jean-YVes Camus, a Paris- based political scientist specializing in European anti-Semitism, "Portugal is one of the very rare coun- tries in Europe, and perhaps the only one, where today there is no problem with anti-Semitism." That may explain why Durao Barroso "has not really expressed any views on the subject in the past, but there should be no reason why he would not be forceful on the issue" in his new role, Camus said. Jewish groups in Europe also point to Durao Barroso's alignment with the Bush ad- ministration in supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq. For the moment, the pro- U.S. line remains the main basis for the optimistic view Israel's supporters in Europe have of Durao Barroso. "We don't really know him," an Israeli diplomatic source in Brusselssaid, "but if I had to go with the press reports I have of him, this is someone from the European center-right who is generally pro-American. That's usually photo courtesy of European Community, 2004 Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, president designate of the European Commission. a good basis for us." Similar reaction came from the Paris-based European Jew- ish Congress. The group's secretary general, Serge Cwajgen- baum, said he knew "very little" about Durao Barroso, "although the views we have collected from the Portu- guese Jewish community have been generally positive." Cwajgenbaum noted Portu- gal's traditionally strong foreign policy links to Britain and the United States, which often have set it at odds with its larger neighbor, Spain. Portugal also has had only very loose ties with the Arab world, preferring to concen- trate its foreign policy state- ments on links with Brazil and its former colonies in sub- Saharan Africa. The choice of a candidate with such broad Atlanticist credentials would have been unusualwere it not for Durao Barroso's ability to build ties to other European leaders. -While he generally has been supportive of U.S. policy in the Middle East, he has avoided the more confrontational approaches of leaders such as Spain's former prime minister, Jose MariaAznar, and Italy's prime . mmlster, Sflvlo Berluscom. Durao Barroso has come a long way politically since his days as a law student at the University of Lisbon, where he was a Maoist party leader during the 1974-75 revolution that overthrew the Salazar dictatorship. Gradually becoming more centrist, he led Portugal's center-right Social Demo- crats to power in 2002, though the country currently is in difficult economic con- ditions. Some E.U. observers believe the commission job could provide Durao Barroso with the perfect opportunity to escape his country's woes. "There are peoplewhowant political stability and think he should have stayed because our economy is not good right now," Muchnik said, "but I think it's right that he accepted the appointment, be- cause itwill help give visibility to our small country." JTA Correspondent Jerome Socolovsky in Madrid contrib- uted to this story. We're Known for Bringing Something to the Party/ We've added exceptional quality to hundreds of occasions with personalized service. 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