Kerry’s First Trip Will Skip Israel
John Kerry’s itinerary for his first Middle East trip as secretary of state is putting a damper on the hope that the former Massachusetts senator will bring new energy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, The Associated Press reports.
The State Department says Kerry will visit nine nations during his trip, which starts Sunday on Purim and ends March 6: the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
That means no time for Israel or the Palestinian territories, which Kerry instead will visit during President Barack Obama’s trip later in March. Kerry had been expected to include Israel on his itinerary to lay the groundwork for the president.
The State Department is using the lack of a new governing coalition in Israel as the reason for Kerry’s decision.
But Kerry’s nonvisit also emphasizes the White House’s efforts to downplay expectations for Obama’s visit from restarting peace talks to reinvigorating U.S.-Israel ties.
Elsewhere around the web:
• According to a graphic published by The Washington Post, members of Congress and senior congressional staffers from 2006 to 2011 took 168 trips to the Middle East that were paid for by foreign governments. The number of those trips that the Israeli government funded: five.
• Jchoice.org is giving away $1,000 in tzedakah to mark Purim, and online votes will determine the winner among 19 nonprofit groups, including Georgia’s own PunkTorah and such traditional favorites as Jewish National Fund and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Go here to cast your vote, and be sure to like Jchoice.org on Facebook.
• There was a time when I was as tired of Andrea Sneiderman stories as I have grown of Chuck Hagel stories. In both cases, we have gotten a lot of noise while reporters and commentators fill time until actual news happens (for Sneiderman, her trial; for Hagel, a Senate confirmation vote). But Dunwoody mom Sneiderman is back in the headlines this week because a grand jury handed up a revised indictment Tuesday, two days before a DeKalb County hearing at which a trial date could be set, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The new indictment adds perjury, false-statement and felony-murder charges and drops racketeering and insurance fraud. Prosecutors no longer are arguing that she wanted her husband, Rusty, killed for financial reasons or to live happily ever after with gunman Hemy Neuman.
• On the European front: Anti-Semitic incidents in France increased by 58 percent in 2012, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.
• Benjamin Netanyahu has the first coalition partner for his new government. No, it’s not Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid or Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home or any of the religious parties. Instead, Tzipi Livni is bringing Hatnua’s six seats into the Likud-Beiteinu-led coalition. The former foreign minister and harsh campaign-trail critic of Netanyahu’s failure to progress toward peace will become justice minister, Ynet reports. The Forward’s Nathan Jeffay wonders what Livni is thinking. Likud members wonder what Netanyahu is thinking, Ynet says.
• The Times of Israel also has an interesting interview with the first American-born member of the Knesset in almost 30 years, Rabbi Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid.
• Intel had good news and bad news this week about its work in Israel, The Jerusalem Post reports. The good news is that the company’s exports from Israel more than doubled in 2012 to $4.6 billion. The bad news is that Intel alone accounted for 20 percent of Israel’s high-tech exports, leading the president of Intel Israel to warn that Israel could lose its status as a world leader in innovation and technology start-ups.
• Can today’s highest-ranked American elected official, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), learn anything from Britain’s most famous Jewish (more or less) political leader, Benjamin Disraeli? University of Houston history professor Robert Zaretsky thinks so, as he writes for the Forward.
• Russian President Vladimir Putin refuses to hand over a collection of historic Jewish texts to Chabad in the United States, The Algemeiner says.
• Ireland has no particular reason to care about the Middle East, which is why the strong pro-Palestinian movement there is so annoying but also why the strong support among some for Israel and the nuanced positions of the government are encouraging, Eamon Delaney writes at The Times of Israel.
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