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July 27, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 27, 2012 PAGE 15~ mqutry may Flse By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- When Rep. Shelley Berkley pitched her bid for the U.S. Senate to pro-Israel donors~ the Nevada Democrat report- edly told them it came down to math. In the U.S. House of Rep- resentatives, the leading pro- Israel lawmaker said, she was one of 435. In the Senate she'd be one of 100, Now backers of the Jewish congresswoman are nervously crunching different figures: Her odds of winning in the wake of the formal launch of a House ethics inquiry The investigation launched July 9, and backed by Demo- crats and Republicans on the committee, will focus on allegations that Berkley's championing of kidney care benefited her husband, Larry Lehrner, a leading kidney specialist in Nevada. The inquiry arises, from revelations in a New York Times report last year which found, among other perceived conflicts, that her successful efforts to block a federal bid to close a k!dney transplant center saved part of a practice co-owned by her husband. Berkley's office said she was "pleased with the committee's decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed." Those close to Berkiey say the campaign dreads the fodder this gives Berkley's opponent Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who can now run ads beginning, as one insider put it, "Shelley Berkley, comma, under an ethics investigation, comma." Republicans have yet to mount ads citing the inquiry, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee made clear the day itwas announced that the probe would be an issue. "Nevadans deserve someone in the Senate who they can trust to work on their behalf and not someone--like Ms. Berkley--who puts. her own financial and political interests fivsL" the GOPgroup said. The inquiry is notlikelytobe resolved before the November election, although Berkley has said she hopes for a speedy resolution. Heller had been appointed to the Senate in 2011 after Sen. John Ensign, also a Republican, resigned in a scandal over alleged favors for a former lover and her husband. Polls before news of the ethics inquiry had Hellerand Berkley in a virtual dead heat. Pro-Israel groups say the loss of Berkley, a stalwart on the cusp of her possible elevation to the Senate, would be a blow. "There are many members of Congress who support Israel. because they think it is the right thing to do," said Morton Klein, the presidentofthe Zion- ist Organization of America, a g%up that often has hosted Berkley. "But few feel their commitment to Israel from the heart as Shdley Berkley does. She does not simply do what's good for U.S-Israel relations, she does it with extraordinary sincerity .and deep commit- ment." Berkley has faced the charges head on, saying that according to congressional Rep. Shelley Berkley official Twitter page Rep. Shelley Berkley, center, attending an event at Mc- Carran Airport in Las Vegas, June 13. ethics standards, benefits to constituents mitigate personal benefits " r lawmakers. In her first ad after the inquiry's launch, Berkley alluded to the charges in a pivot against Heller's vote to restrain fund- ing for Medicare. "The Las Vegas Sun says Berkley's 'advocacy wasn't driven for personal gain, itwas aimed at helping Nevadans,' " the ad says. "And Dean Heller? Hellervoted twice to end Medi- care as we know it." Ben Chouake, who heads NORPAC, a leading pro-Israel political action committee backing Berkley, said she never hid her husband's interest in keeping the kidney transplant center open. "She did her job," Chouake said, noting that the entire state delegation--Repub- lican and Democratic, and including Heller backed keeping the transplant center in state. "She's not hiding the fact that her husband is a nephrologist. She's always sating, 'My husband Larry, the nephrologist." Berldey is a star in the [,as Vegas Jewish community, ac- cording to Elliott Karp, the director of the city's Jewish federation. "She i clearly viewed as someone the Jewish commu- nity is proud of because she's a great representative of the Jewish community in Nevada," he said. Berkley, who in appearances notes her Sephardic-Ashkenazi heritage with pride, is known affectionately among Demo- crats as the "Hadassah lady." She was the only lawmakerwho during a congressional salute to the group on its 100th anni- versary in 2002 congratulated "my Hadassah sisters" from the House floor. She also con- sistently expresses pride in her pre-congressionai involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. With her oversize handbags, slightly stooped gait, steely coil, wide smile and high-volume intensity, Berkley, 61, has mastered conveying to her in- terlocutors the intense interest of an older relative. Berkley's pro-Israelimpactis felt less through legislation-- few of her pro-Israel initiatives make it to the House floor for a full vote--and more in how her rhetoric helps set pro -Israel parameters in Congress. "If I'm putting something together, she's the first person I call," said.Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who has co-sponsored a host of pro-Israel initiatives with Berkley. In letters in recent months, Berkley and Engel have pressed the Obama administration to review the U.S. relationship withTurkey in the wake of its distancing from Israel and protested to foreign diplomats UNESCO's designation of the Church of the Nativity as a world heritage site, describing it asapolitical maneuver by the Palestinians. Berkley's voice would be magnified in the Senate. Ch- ouake said. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I= Conn.), the Senate's most pronounced pro-Israel voice :but who is retiring this year. is headlining a fundraiser for Berkley in New York later this month. Berkley's outspokenness has earned her admirers on both sides of the political spec- trum: Right-wing evangelicals adore her for bringing them Democratic credibility she routinely appears at Chris- tians United for Israel events. She has criticized the Obama administration for not consis- tently endorsing her view that the Palestinians are primarily to blame"for the collapse in peacemaking. Liberals revel in her long- running feud with Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and a major donor to Republi- cans, dating back to when he fired heras his legislative direc- tor in 1997 over differences on how to deal with unions. Berkley in a 2008 New Yorker profile of Adelson accused him of abusing the "raw power of money." Berkley lashed out at the administration of George W. Bush for making Israel more vulnerable as a result of the Iraq War. "The only nation that seems to have benefited by our inva- sion of Iraq is Iran, which is a far greater threat to Israel than Iraq was," she told JTA in October 2004. accusing then- Vice President Dick Cheney of "deceiving" her and others in the pro-Israel community whenhe made the case to them for the Iraq invasion. "She's not afraid of reper- cussions, no matter who the president is," Engel said. M.J. Rosenberg, a critic of Israeli policies from the left, said he tends to hold his fire when it comes to Berkley because she is unafraid to break with her allies among pro-Israel hawks. "She speaks out against anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bigotry," Rosenberg said. "She is a strong backer of working people, unions and minorities. I totally disagree with her posi: tion on the occupation, but she is a liberal and she is certainly not a hater." Berkley has outraised Heller this cycle $6.2 million to $5.8 million, and her campaign and donors show no signs of flag-. ging. Nevada is seen a swing state and critical to maintain- ing Democratic control of the Senate. Talking Points Memo, the liberal news site, last week reported that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Commit- tee pressed ahead with plans to reserve $2.3 million in TV ad spending for Berkley even after the announcement of the ethics inquiry. Still, the House probe could hurt Berkley, whoiswell known in and around Las Vegas but had planned on using the coming months to introduce herself statewide. "She is from a very small urban district, and not well known outside," said Jon Ralston, a Las Vegas Sun reporter and the doyen of the state'spolitical reporters. "This is not a good way for her to be introduced to the voters of Reno. It's going to damage her; it's a question of how much." Conference From page 2A Jesus as their savior will be -killed. Rabbi Noam Marans, di- rector of interreligious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee, says Jews should embrace the support of evangelicals even if they don't embrace their theology. "It's important for the Jew- ish community to welcome support for the State of Israel but not necessarily have to agree on every aspect of that support," Marans told JTA. Two years ago, the AJC brought together Gary Bau- er--a prominent CUFI execu- tive board member--Marans and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly to talk about evangelical support for Israel. For hispart, Hagee has said repeatedly in interviews that proselytizing is unacceptable for CUFI members. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who addressed the CUFI delegates during asession on the impor- tance of Christian Zionism, told JTA that he has spoken with Hagee about the matter and believes him. Both Christians and Jews believe they are living out God's mandate and that their under- standing of the messiah is cor- rect, said Riskin, an Orthodox rabbi in the West Bank com- munity of Efrat and founder of the Israel-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understand- ing and Cooperation. "They have the right to believe "that because I believe at the end of days all of the Christians will convert to Judaism." "Christian Zionism is tre- mendously important be- cause now we're in the midst of a religious war," Riskin said. "There are 1 billion- plus Muslims and there are 2 billion-plus Christians. For us, Christian friendship is critical. " Among the Jewish present- ers at the conference were Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.); Ari Fleischer, a former George W. Bush White House spokes- man; Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. Eor participants at the CUFI convention. Jews were secondary; the focus was on Israel. During a break between sessions on Monday, a choir stood in the center of'the large hallway and harmonized songs praising God for his pro- tection of Israel. Nearby, shop- pers perused items for sale in the CUFI store, including white onesies for babies with the words "Defend America; vote Israel," stainless steel rings with the Hebrew Shma prayer and T-shi.rts with this quote from Isaiah: "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him." Elsewhere in the building, some of the children aged 5 to 12 who had come with the evangelical delegates were busy at Camp CUFI, where activities included Israeli dancing, "pray for Israel" ses- sions, and an Israeli movie and entertainment. Hagee repeatedly has stressed in interviews that CUFI will not oppose decisions of the Israeli government in peace talks, including if it agrees to relinquish portions of the West Bank. However, the sentiments of many CUFI followers seemed clear. "The entire territory from the Jordan to the Mediter- ranean" is God's "gift to the Jewish people," said Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, who three decades ago helped Hagee organize his first Christian Salute to Israel event, to strong applause. "It is not stolen land. It is the eternal heritage of the Jewish people." Hagee told the crowd, "The Bible is a Zionist text beginning with the fact that God created the world and as the owner of the world he entered into a contract with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever and gave them the land. Israel does not occupy the land, they own the land!" The three-day summit will conclude Wednesday with the lobbying of participants' congressional representa- -tires. The delegates will focus on stopping Iran's nuclear quest, U.S.-Israeli security Cooperation; U.S. security aid for Israel and stopping Palestinian incitement. 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