George W. Bush's speech caught Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert in New York. About an hour after the president collected his papers from the Rose Garden podium, Olmert took the stage for a speech to the young leadership of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. "The president's call to get rid of Arafat gave me great pleasure, but we've been saying it for some time," the mayor began. "What particularly pleased me were the expressions of the people standing behind the president. I wasn't surprised by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's broad smile," said the mayor, "because we all know he supports Israel." Then came the point. "But what gave me most pleasure was seeing Secretary of State Colin Powell nodding behind the president's back." Olmert went on to say, "I know his positions, and I know that he will have to implement the president's policy." The audience chuckled at the senior Israeli politician's barb at a senior American politician.
Washington officials yesterday suggested to their Israeli colleagues that they should not be in such a hurry to eulogize Powell. The officials expect that during September's UN General Assembly in New York, Powell will convene a mini-summit with the Arab and Israeli foreign ministers and a senior representative of the Palestinian Authority, in other words, an Arafat representative.
In any case, Olmert wasn't satisfied with only making fun of the secretary of state in front of 400 American citizens. He used the opportunity to settle scores with former president Bill Clinton. "Who would believe that when Bush was elected president, the most popular American president in Israel was the man who proposed dividing Jerusalem and giving them Beit Safafa," said the mayor. Olmert couldn't resist adding in a mocking tone that Clinton did not know that until 1967, half of Beit Safafa was in Israel.
Ramallah reforms, Alabama election
To understand the political background to Bush's speech, it's worth taking a look at the Web site of the U.S. Federal Election Commission. Look for contributors to Artur Davis, a black lawyer who won the Democratic primaries in the 7th Congressional District in Alabama on the day of the speech. Davis beat his rival, the 60-year-old, five-term Earl Hilliard, who is also black, by a 56-44 percent vote. Here are some of the names from the first pages of the list of his contributors: there were 10 Cohens from New York and New Jersey, but before one gets to the Cohens, there were Abrams, Ackerman, Adler, Amir, Asher, Baruch, Basok, Berger, Berman, Bergman, Bernstein and Blumenthal. All from the east coast, Chicago and Los Angeles. It's highly unlikely any of them have ever visited Alabama, let alone the 7th Congressional District.
What do the Adlers and Bergmans have to do with an unknown lawyer running for a Congressional seat from Alabama. Why should Jews from all over the United States send hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign coffers, which reached $781,000 - compared to the $85,000 he had in his coffers the last time he ran, and lost? The answer can be found in the AIPAC index of pro-Israel congressmen. Hilliard, who once visited Libya, is paying for his Congressional seat for a number of votes the Jewish lobbyists didn't like. The most recent vote was when he did not vote with the overwhelming majority of congressmen who passed a resolution in support of Israel's war on terrorism. A little while later, his opponent, Davis, discovered that a shower of checks was pouring into his campaign chest. Most of the signatures on the checks had Jewish names. The message was clear - this is what happens to politicians who upset Israel's friends.
Foreign Ministry analysts, who have spoken with dozens of American politicians, pollsters and columnists, have come to the conclusion that the Jewish vote, and Jewish money, have more influence on U.S. policy toward the conflict than anything else, and the influence extends all the way to Bush's speech. The polls show that the upcoming congressional elections in November will be the closest of the last 150 years. That possible draw increases the importance of minority groups, especially the Jewish community's vote.
An election reform bill could increase the influence of the Jewish community, considering Jewish money in the last elections constituted two-thirds of all contributions to the Democrats. The new law will grant preference to private donors over corporations, and allow only direct contributions to candidates and not to general party coffers. AIPAC has what is generally considered the largest database of private donors. According to the Foreign Ministry's analysis, that data was much more in the forefront of Bush's thinking on Tuesday than the latest terror attacks in Israel and the hunger in Gaza.
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