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October 19, 2012
 

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 2012 Linda Gradstein The Media Line Arab newspapers barely mentioned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netan- yahu's decision to go to early elections, some nine months ahead of schedule. "I don't think anyone's even aware of it- it's not even mentioned on the front page of today's paper," Nadim She- hadi, a Middle East expert at the U.K.'s Chatham House think tank, who is currently in Beirut told The Middle Line. "I think people assume he will be re-elected, so why would it make a difference?" Palestinian officials, who are perhaps most directly affected by Israel, had little to say. "It's an internal matter," Nour Oudeh, spokesperson for the Palestinian Author- ity told The Media Line. "It's not something that we would comment on." Palestinian analysts said they do not believe the elec- tions will have any effect on the moribund Israeli- Palestinian peace process. "In previous situations like this they would be worried that Israeli actions might put the peace process on hold," Ghassan Khatib, a professor of Contemporary Arab Studies at Bir Zeit University and a former government spokesman told The Media Line. "But that is not a concern now because the peace process is already on hold." Netanyahu announced the early elections, which are expected to be held in mid- February, in a prime-time news conference. He told the public that he made the decision because he is unable to pass the current budget. But most Israeli analysts say that Netanyahu has several reasons for wanting to hold the elections sooner rather than later. Netanyahu was prime minister the first time from 1996 - 1999 and was elected again in 2009. Writing in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, columnist Ari Shavit said that Netanyahu has achieved little in his second term of office after 42 months. He refers to him as "the second Netanyahu." "The second Netanyahu wanted to preempt bad eco- nomic news and bad security news that could undermine his one achievement- stabil- ity. The second Netanyahu wanted to quickly end the political wrestling match within Israel so that he will be ready in the spring for the big strategic wrestling match with Iran." Other analysts say Netan- yahu wanted to hold elec- tions before former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert can organize a challenge against him. Olmert was convicted of breach of trust in July, but legally can return to politics. He is still on trial for another corruption charge surrounding the building of a large housing project, the Holyland. Olmert insists that he has not yet decided if he will return to politics, although the Israeli press is rife with speculation that he will. Former army chief-of-staff Gabi Ashkenazi is rumored to be considering joining Olmert. Together they could offer a centrist alternative to Netanyahu. At the same time, the numbers show that the right-wing bloc headed by Netanyahu will easily de- feat any combination of the center-left bloc whether it is headed by Olmert; Shaul Mofaz, another former chief- of-staff; or Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich. The elections could have implications for Israel's do- mestic balance-of-power. Labor, which currently holds eight seats in parliament (Knesset), members could double or even triple its repre- a yawn sentation inthe 120-seat body. Kadima, the centrist party which won the most seats of any single party in the last election with 28, is expected to dramatically decrease in strength. A new party headed by political first-timer and TV personality Yair Lapid is expected to show well. But none of that will matter when it comes to making large foreign policy decisions such as how to deal with Iran's nuclear program or whether to restart peace talks with the Palestinians. "Whether it is Netanyahu's first, second or third term, he will not move ahead on the Palestinian issue with- out external pressure from the US," Palestinian analyst Khatib said. "The current situation is unsustainable." Annika Hernroth-Rothstein ~,~.p----*~d~ Carlquist speaking at a rally at Stockholm's Raoul Wallenberg Park in solidarity with the Malmo Jewish com- munity, Oct. 7. By Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)--Hours after the late-night explosion outside the Jewish community center in Malmo, Sweden, the scent of baking challah already was wafting from the center's ovens into the chilly morning air, as it does every Friday morning. Later, the Jewish preschool at the site would open as usual. A smashed bulletproof glass window and two police officers standing watch were the only Annika Hernroth-Rothstein Lena Posner-Korosi, president of the Council of Swedish Jewish communities, speaking at a rally at Stockholm's R aoul WaUenberg Park in solidarity with the Malmo Jewish community, Oct. 7. evidence of a Sept. 28 attack in which assailants set off an explosive device and threw bricks at the center's door, ac- cording to Rabbi Rebecca Lil- lian, who lives in the building. Swedish police arrested and then released two 18-year- old male suspects whom witnesses had placed at the scene; the city's prosecutor is considering whether to indict them. Some Swedish Jews said Rallies on page 18A Rabbi Rebecca Lillian A solidarity vigilorganized by Malmo's Network for Faith and Understanding at the city's Jewish community center hours after assailants set off an explosive device there, Sept. 28. By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--The re- cent shooting of an Israeli hotel employee by an American Jew- ish intern is raising questions about how Israel internship programs for Diaspora Jews recruit and screen applicants. The assailant, William Her- skowitz, was killed by police following a brief standoff last Friday shortly after the fatal shooting, in which he report- edly used the firearm of a hotel security guard to kill 33-year- old Armando Abed in the din- ing room of the Leonardo Club Hotel in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat. Herskowitz had been en- rolled in Oranim's Eiiat Hotel Experience, an internship program for American Jews interested in the hospitality industry. He had worked in several positions at the hotel and took a course in hotel management. Oranim is a tour provider that offers long- and short-term Israel programs to young adults. According to Oranim, Her- skowitz had lost his job a day earlier for lack of discipline. To get into the program, according to current and past Oranim employees, Herskow- itz had to fill out an online form, pass a two-part phone interview with Oranim re- cruiters and send in a medical history form. Past recruiters at Oranim and other long-term intern- ship programs in Israel noted the difficulty of gauging the personalities of potential par- ticipants from across the ocean. "On one hand you can have a phone conversation with someone and they sound fine, handle themselves well," said a former Oranim recruiter who asked to remain anonymous. "You can have a doctor sign offon this form and not report certain medical disorders, and how would you know? People can seem completely normal on the phone or Skype, and then things surface once they get to Israel." Oranim's spokesman, Yuval Arad, said that Herskowitz had a clean medical record and no criminal history. While Oranim's online application includeda resume, Oranim did not ask Herskowitz for refer- ences or a personal essay on why he chose the program-- safeguards required by similar programs. A recruiter for the WUJS Intern Tel Aviv program, which like Oranim combines work with Hebrew study and travel, said her program requires a personal essay and a video interview--and refer- ences, if deemed necessary-- in order to ensure that recruit- ers know which applicants to watch closely, even after they arrive on the program. "It is possible for people to fall through the cracks, but if you work for a program you know who your red flags are from the first conversation and monitor their behavior closely on the program," said Amy Gross, the WUJS recruiter. However, she added, some- times "all the monitoring in the world can't prevent some- one from doing something crazy." Career Israel, another long- term internship program in Israel, requires applicants to submit a recommendation. Herskowitz also received funding for the program from Masa Israel Journey, an umbrella organization for 200 long-term Israel programs. In order to receive the stipends, which run into the thousands of dollars per person, partici- pants must be Jewish and aged 18 to 30. Flash90/JTA Police and medical personnel at the scene where American intern William Herskowitz opened fire at the Leonardo Club Hotel in Eilat, killing one, Oct. 5. Following the shooting, the Jewish Agency for Israel, which governs Masa, said that it would be convening a panel "to examine the processes by which the American par- ticipant was accepted to the Oranim program in Eilat," according to an email. A subsequent statement to JTA called the incident "a truly anomalous event." The former Oranim re- cruiter, as well as the group's spokesperson, said the phone interview was enough to de- termine whether an applicant was fit for Oranim's programs. "You can tell by having a conversation with somebody if they sounded competent, if they sounded strange or if they had a strange reason for coming to Israel," the former recruiter said, adding that recruiters sometimes called applicants' grandparents to get more insight into them. Arad, Oranim's spokes- man, said the organization has to rely on the applicants themselves to provide reliable information. "You don't ask a person, 'Are you crazy?' " Arad said. "They need to give medical assurances. What can you learn from the resum~ of an 18-year-old?"