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PAGE 22A Wexler From page 1A alleled opportunity to work on behalf of Middle East peace for an important and influential nonprofit institute," Wexler said in a statement. "After much discussionwith my fam- ily, I have decided that I cannot pass up on this opportunity." The problemwith his expla- nation is that the congress- man, who was unavailable for an interview, already is in - a position to exert consider- able influence on Middle East policy. As chairman of the Europe subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. Wexler lobbied European na- tions to join in isolating Iran isolation and helped sustain Israel's role as a NATO satellite country. He was effective, too, in bringing Turkey into the process as a Mideast broker. Wexler was the first major Jewish political figure to join the Obama campaign, in 2007, just after the then-senator had declared his candidacy. Obama's political master- mind, David Axelrod now a senior White House adviser-- advised his candidate to woo Wexler as the iconoclast likeli- est tobreak Hillary Rodham Clinton's then-stranglehold on Jewish support. With a stand-up comic's hands-in-the-pocket, cards- on-the-table demeanor, Wex- ler ventured during the cam- paign into redoubts of Jewish support for Clinton such as Ohio. Thrown into a grind of twice-daily appearances. Wexler would loosen up the audiencewithjokes about how refreshing it was to address voters about a half-century younger than the average hage in his Florida constitu- ency before launching into a vigorous defense of Obama's emphasis on diplomacy to rebuild America's reputation abroad. "When that new day of trans-Atlantic relations emerges, Israel too will be a great beneficiary," he told a crowd in Cleveland. Some voters who were skeptical about Obama be- fore Wexler's presentation said afterward that he won them over. Much was made in the weeks before last year's elec- tion of the supposed reluc- tance of Florida's elderly Jews to back a black candidate whose middle name was Hussein. Obama won Florida handily, and the problems likely were overstated, but~ Wexler earned credit for tirelessly working the state's retirement homes, where he is beloved. Wexler has commanded respect from Jewish liberals and centrists by combining support for robust U.S. diplo- macy in pursuit of a two-state solutionwith a strong defense of Israel's response to Hamas rocket attacks, steering clear of criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan- yahu's policies and arguing that Obama needs to do a better job of selling his policies directly to the Israeli public. So why would Wexler give up such precious political capital? In the absence of a more de- tailed explanation, j ournalists andpolicymakerswho thought they knew Wexler could only speculate: He was positioning himself for an Obama admin- istration peace-brokering role. After 14 years he had tired of the congressional grind. The most common reason prof- fered was that he needs the money (the lawmaker has three children who attend a pricey Jewish day school). Wexler, reached by The As- sociated Press, said nothing exciting was up. "I am not under any investi- gation. My marriage is intact. Myhealth is good and, thank God, the health of my family is good," he said. "I am leaving to become the president of the Center for Middle East Peace. It may not be as sexy as some other thingS, but this is what I'm doing." The only episode approach- ing a scandal in recent years reinforces the notion that Wexler is eager for a change: An opponent discovered in 2008 that the Delray Beach residence Wexler listed as his was in fact his in-laws. This, it turns out, was not illegal, but in the course of the reporting it became clear that Wexler prefers his Washington-area community in suburban Potomac, Md., where he and his family attend Beth Sholom. an Orthodox synagogue. Wexler is perhaps one of the most unabashed Jews in Congress; he does not hide his affiliations. His wife. Laurie. has worked for the American Jewish Committee. Stump- ing in the tiniest of far-flung towns during Obama's cam- paign, he had an unerring scent for whatever local deli was selling Jewish or at least Jewish-sty!e--fare. In his book, he gleefully joined his liberaligm and his advocacy for Israel into pug- naciousness. Wexler describes in his book a contentious Abraham- funded visit to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations three weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack~ and his growing impatience with Arab leaders who tried to persuade him that the U.S.-Israel alliance was to blame for terrorism. "At times it has been dif- ficult to hold ~ny temper," he wrote. "In Kuwait. for example, I almost got into a fistfight with the chairman of their International Relations Committee. And he isn't even a Republican." Wexler was the only con- gressman who called for an investigation into the FBI probe that led to the govern- ment's failed case against two former staffers of the Ameri- can Israel PublicAffairs Com- mittee. Steve Rosen and Keith HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NE Weissman. He maintained his support for the two even after AIPAC had cut them loose. Wexler has earned something of an attack dog reputation, dat- ing back to the late 1990s and his first congressional term, when he accused his .colleagues of being the real "perverts" in the impeachment proceedings for salaciously combing through the details of PresidentClinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. He fought back hard against the Florida tallies in the 2000 Gore-Bush recount; his Bro- ward and Palm Beach counties constituents were-among the disenfranchised. In last year's election, Wexler earned Republican scorn when his accusation that Sarah Palin had been associated in the past with World War II revisionist Pat Buchanan turned out to be baseless. He maintains a close friendship, however, with Florida's Republican governor, Charlie Crist. Wexler, a Florida state legis- lator before his 1996 election to Congress, also has been a champion of Holocaust survi- vors and their claims against European institutions. The congressman has been unswervingly loyal to Turkey; his was the only Jewish vote in 2007 on the Foreign Rela- tions Committee against recognizing the World War I Ottoman Empire massacre of Armenians as "genocide." Such uncompromising postures suggest a reason for Wexler's comity with P/S, OCTOBER 23, 2009 Abratam, who also has a confr( ntational reputation: In 1998. Abraham recalled in his book. l'Peace is Possible." that he almost destroyed his cen- ter's credibility in important proqsrael circles by telling President Clinton at a White House dinner that itwas clear that he. Arab leaders and even Yasser Arafat wanted to make peace, but wondered: "Do we know if Bibi (Netanyahu) wants to make peace?" That earned a sharp rebuke from Ezer Weizman. the late Israeli president, who was present at the dinner. Netanyahuis back in office. and Wexler has good relations with the prime minister's team. Hiring Wexler could garner good graces with Israel's current government for Abraham's organization. The three candidates lin- ing up to replace Wexler are all Jewish: state Sens. Ted Deutch and Jeremy Ring, and Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter. Deutch, whose district most overlaps with Wexler's, is said to have the best chance. Last year he helped shepherd through one of the first Iran divestment laws in a U.S. state. Jewish Democrats said Wex- ler is here to stay as a presence. "He has a deep and lasting commitment to the State of Israel and assuring a lasting and secure peace for Israel." said David Harris. the presi- dent of the National Jewish Democratic Council. "This move is a testament to how deep his convictions run." Europe From page 1A pean leaders' tough stances toward Tehran. "Back in 2003, the Euro- peans thought they had a chance with the moderate Iranian president, Moham- mad Khatami. That is not the mood today," observed Volker Perthes. an Iran expert with the government-funded German Institute for Inter- national and Security Affairs. "Sarkozy and other Euro- pean leaders are underscor- ing more than ever before their frustration that Iran is not moving fast enough" on promises to halt uranium enrichment and disclose all its nuclear sites, said Clara Marina O'Donnell, a research fellow at the Center for Euro- pean Reform. a London-based think tank. Nevertheless. she said, the shift is one of tone. not substance. "The.stronger message from Sarkozy is also due to the personality involved; he is notoriously combative," O'Donnell said. "It is not a policy change." In one way, the U.S. shift toward negotiations has enabled European leaders to take a tougher line on Iran: Now that Iran can no longer use the absence of the Ameri- cans at the negotiating table as a stalling tactic, European leaders feel more comfortable giving Iran ultimatums. However. the European ap- petite for sanctions if the Ira- nians again fail to complywith international demands is not as hearty as in Washington. In the United States. Congress is set to push for harsh new unilateral sanctions if Iran fails to live up to its promises and if U.N. Security Council members China or Russia ve- toes additional international sanctions. InEurope. however, skepti- cism remains about the ef- fectiveness of sanctions even with the real fear that Iran might cause serious security problems worldwide. "Europeans look at the U.S. sanctions against Cuba. and say, 'They didn't work, why should we do this?' " Perthes said. Many suspect tougher sanctions will only help the Iranian regime because the primary victims will be the Iranian people, who likely would blame the West for their stgfering. Left- leaning governments such as Spain also likely would find new sanctions hard to swallow. The distaste for sanctions als0 may be economic. Italy is Iran's largest Western trading partner, followed by Germany. Nonetheless. Germany's sales of ma- chinery to Iran have been on the decline, and Merkel received kudos recently from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu for reducing trade and finan- cial ties with Iran. "Our foreign minister is saying that the sanctions might notwork," said Simon.e Hartmann. a spokeswoman in Austria for a group called Stop the Bomb. "That is just an excuse to help Austrian business." Austrian exports to Iran rose by 5 percent in the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period of 2008, reaching approximately $220 million. This isn't to say that Eu- rope does not regard Iran as a threat. On the contrary: German and French intel- ligence officials Say Iran never stopped working toward nuclear weaponization. By contrast, the official position of U.S. intelligence, put forth in a2007 National Intelligence Estimate. is that Iran's covert nuclearweapons programwas halted in .2003. The Israeli position is closer to the Eu- ropean position. While some in the United States favor military action against Iran, Europe holds a stronger aversion to that ap- pr~)ach after what most of the continent's leaders perceiveas . the wrongful invasion of Iraq. Sico Van der Meer of the Dutch Clingendale Institute of International Relations said that European leaders believe economic or political incentives might be more ef- fective in keeping Iran from going nuclear than any form of punishment. "I think if Israel dropped a bomb on Qom today, the Iranians would still find a way--would be even more de- terminedto continue their nuclear program," he said. Uganda From page 1A assistant rabbi of Congrega- tion Ohev Shalom in Orlando and the staff advisor to the synagogue's Social Action Committee, which arranged the invitation for Keki to come to central Florida. "For decades, they practiced Judaism in virtual isolation, then weathered the harsh oppression of Idi Amin's quarter-century of rule. "I've had the honor of meeting JJ Keki in the past, and I'm certain his first- hand account of how the community has survived and thrived will be just as moving to everyone who hears him." Keki will discuss sev- eral Abayudaya-Kulanu development l~rojects, including the Mirembe Kawomera/"Delicious Peace" fair trade organic coffee program, which has brought together approximately 1.000 Jewish, Christian and Muslim farmers in a cooperative to produce fair-trade certified coffee. The Abayudaya, led by Keki. took the leadership role in this umque program crossing religious lines. The program was awarded the prestigious Dr. Jean Mayer Award from the Tufts Insti- tute~ for Global Leadership of Tufts University in 2008. In additi6n. Keki will update audiences on the Kulanu-supported Abayu- daya primary and secondary schools, which feed and edu- cate some 700 Jewish, Muslim and Christian children study- ing together in peace. Other Abayudaya-Kulanu programs include a child hunger proj- ect, health education and women's empowerment pro- grams, micro-finance and eco-tourism. "While most of us wonder if people of different faiths will ever learn to live together in harmony, the Abayudaya are doing it in one of the most historically difficult and volitile regions of the world," says Kay. The event on Nov. will also provide an opportunity to purchase Abayudaya Ju- daica items, music CDs and Mirembe Kawomera coffee. There is no charge for the event, but seating is limited and avoluntary contribution at the door is appreciated. All proceeds will benefit Abayu- daya-Kulanu programs. For more information, Con- tact Kay at 407-298-4650 or RabbiKay@OhevShalom.org.